Macrocycles and constrained peptides, generally defined as cyclic small molecules or peptides of 500–2,000 Da, have undergone a rebirth over the last five years in drug discovery, due mainly to the introduction of new approaches for their synthesis and screening. This scientific progress has fueled a burst of business activity, with at least 12 biotech companies in the space, of which almost half were founded in the last 5 years.
This special collection from SciBX: Science-Business eXchange provides an overview of the state of the field from both the scientific and the business perspective.
First, in a SciBX Analysis, a roadmap for progress across various platforms is laid out by the participants at a recent SciBX Summit on macrocycles and constrained peptides. The article identifies four areas of science in which work is needed to enable innovation in the field: pharmacokinetics, cell permeability, oral bioavailability and target engagement to develop more drug-like compounds and streamline drug discovery.
This Analysis is complemented by a BioCentury Product Discovery and Development piece that provides a comprehensive overview of the competitive landscape by laying out the players in the field, their partnerships and the status of their most advanced programs.
Next, we provide an introduction to an interactive dashboard produced by Relay Technology Management that allows users to explore trends in grants, publications, company pipelines, transactions and IP relevant to macrocycles and constrained peptides. Relay TM is a strategic partner of Nature Research.
This is followed by a Review by White and Yudin that revisits the latest developments in peptide macrocyclization strategies. The cyclization of macrocycles using traditional chemical synthesis approaches has faced enormous challenges due to steric constraints and the unwieldiness of small and large precursors. But recently, new solutions have emerged, including versatile platforms for macrocycle library generation that open a myriad of new opportunities for generating synthetic macrocycles. A second SciBX Analysis specifically explores the technical and commercial possibilities that may open up based on a new method for creating large libraries of N-methylated peptide macrocycles developed by Suga and collaborators.
Finally, an article by Stewart et al. illustrates the potential of a particular class of constrained peptides called stapled peptides as therapeutic agents. Harnessing the binding precision of stapled peptides, the authors were able to design a highly specific inhibitor of MCL-1, a critical survival factor in a wide range of human cancers.
The Analyses, Reviews and Articles presented here provide a broad overview of the scientific and business status of the field and some examples of specific technological advances that are but a small sample of the possibilities to come.
We acknowledge the support of Aileron Therapeutics Inc., PolyPeptide Group, Polyphor Ltd. and Lanthio Pharma B.V. in producing this collection. Nature Research and BioCentury Publications Inc. have sole responsibility for editorial content
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