Zealand Pharma and Protagonist Therapeutics signed a collaboration agreement focused on the discovery and development of disulfide-rich peptide (DRP)-based therapeutics against targets specified by Zealand. The partnership will hinge on Protagonist’s technology platform for the discovery and optimization of DRPs that exhibit increased stability and thus improved pharmacokinetic profiles.
Under terms of the deal Zealand retains all rights to all resulting DRP drug candidates and will be responsible for all preclinical and clinical development. Protagonist will receive an up-front fee along with preclinical, clinical, and sales milestones. The firm in addition retains an option to co-finance the development of DRP drug candidates.
Protagonist is exploiting DRPs as a broad scaffold class and has assembled a database of over 5,000 experimentally derived DRPs that can be further optimized and functionalized against virtually any specified target including those traditionally addressed by mAbs or targets such as GPCRs, ion channels, and chemokines that are generally intractable to mAbs.
The firm claims optimized DRP molecules are highly constrained and stable chemical entities that effectively combine the beneficial features of mAb drugs with the desired properties of small molecule drugs. The resulting attributes include improved oral stability, reduced immunogenicity, favorable pharmacokinetics, improved distribution and tissue penetration, and delivery by injectable and/or oral routes.
Protagonist’s in-house R&D is focused on developing injectable and orally stable IL-6 peptide antagonists. The firm also has an ongoing collaboration with Ironwood Pharmaceuticals to develop DRP candidates against its partner’s targets.