Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

In the last decade, antibody-based drugs have provided treatments for allergies, infectious diseases, cancers, and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. But antibodies are large molecules, expensive to manufacture and tricky to maintain, requiring refrigerated storage. And extensive patent protections tie the hands of drug companies that want to expand their use.

Now researchers at biotech startup Avidia, in Mountain View, CA, have engineered a new class of proteins they call “avimers,” which the company says are easier to make and store – and require fewer lawyers to bring to market. Avidia scientists have shown that an avimer designed to inhibit human interleukin-6 (IL-6) – a protein implicated in rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease – works in mice. Avidia plans to move the avimer into human trials later this year.

Avimers derive from a related group of about 200 human-protein subunits. In the body, collections of these subunits fit together like Legos to form proteins that bind to small molecules and other proteins – exactly what any drug must do. Avidia scientists have varied the molecules’ building blocks to create a vast “library” of more than 100 million billion subunits. Linking together differing numbers and types of the variants “allows you to engineer proteins with a desired specificity for a target and to get very high affinities,” says George Georgiou, a protein engineer at the University of Texas at Austin.

Avidia scientists say they can design molecules to either inhibit or activate their targets and perhaps even bind to multiple targets simultaneously. Josh Silverman, an Avidia senior scientist, says the company’s initial sights are on drugs for cancers and autoimmune diseases.

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Tagged: Biomedicine

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me