June 21, 2018

Targeted therapeutics that travel directly to a disease site promise to reduce side effects and improve patient outcomes. But attaching these “address labels” to drug molecules has proven difficult.  

Using proteins originally found in blue-green algae, researchers at Princeton have developed a highly effective technique for attaching drugs to antibodies that target diseased cell types, such as cancer cells, without affecting healthy ones. This class of therapeutics, known as antibodydrug conjugates, is currently being developed for the treatment of cancer. The method quickly links drugs to antibodies using algal proteins called “split inteins” that join together like opposing sides of a zipper. The stable bond between the antibody and drug enables the drug to be released slowly at the site of action.  

The technology is now being developed by ProteoDesign, a company located in Barcelona, Spain, and founded by researchers from the laboratory of Tom Muir, a professor of chemistry and a world leader on protein semi-synthesis and chemical biology. The company is developing a novel class of antibody-drug conjugates and offers research and development services, including chemically modified proteins on demand.  

“Our technology, based on the use of ultrafast split inteins, enables the development and production of a superior class of biotherapeutics, including antibody-drug conjugates, overcoming limitations of currently used methods,” said Miquel Vila-Perello, ProteoDesign’s chief science officer and a former research scholar in Muir’s lab. “We are very excited about the potential of this new approach.”