Peptides are short proteins formed by a chain consisting of 50 or less amino acids. One of the great strengths of peptide chemistry for the design of potential therapeutics is in the powerful new approaches for discovering and screening new drug candidates.
Many efforts have been devoted in the last decade to the development of therapeutic agents based on peptides. Combinatorial chemistry has contributed greatly in this context.
The potential applications for peptide therapies are very high: until now, nine products based on peptides are already on the market and over 100 companies are working on new peptide products, many of which are in the late stage clinical trials.
The major limitation in the use of peptides as drugs, such as bio-availability and life time, is in large extent related to the conformational flexibility of the bioactive peptides. To address this problem, Primm developed the approach of constraining the conformation of peptides to the bioactive one, called "bioactive peptide".
The term bioactive peptides is used to identify molecules of peptidic nature or origin which display a biological behaviour or activity which can be developed at the industrial level for pharmaceutical, diagnostic, chemical and agro-food applications. In this way it is possible to obtain modified peptides with superior properties for therapeutic applications.
The strategy adopted by Primm follows these steps:
1) identification of the smallest sequence that causes a measurable biological effect this is achieved by the synthesis and testing of fragments of the starting peptide sequence
2) identification of the bioactive conformation, by structure determination and structure-activity relationship studies;
3) peptide design to constrain the conformation, by computer assisted molecular design
4) chemical synthesis
5) biological and pharmacological evaluation; optimisation through iteration of steps 3-5.
Primm is exploiting the existing know-how in peptide chemistry for the development, manufacturing and marketing of proprietary peptides for applications in selected therapeutic areas, with the following objectives:
design of novel peptide molecules with NGF-like activity for application in the area of neurodegeneration
design of novel peptides displaying anti-viral activity for the treatment of Herpes infections.