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 »

Verdine has since built a few different peptides that target disease pathways. The latest example could be a boon for cancer biology. It targets a protein called beta-catenin that is important for embryonic growth and development but can cause cancer–most commonly, colon cancer–when its production goes unchecked. Using the stapling approach, Verdine and his colleagues have developed a peptide that can move through cell membranes and directly target beta-catenin production at the DNA level. Tests in cell culture have been promising, and the group is about to begin animal studies.

“While it’s been known for many years that beta-catenin is a major player in several human cancers, it’s been impossible to attack it using traditional chemistry approaches,” says Frank McCormick, a cancer biologist and director of the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California at San Francisco. “It’s on the list of proteins that the whole field would like to develop targets against but that, so far, have proven undruggable. It’s potentially a really big step forward.”

The second target Verdine and his colleagues attacked, interleukin 13, has been linked to the development of asthma. The resulting stapled peptide, three years in the making and still in early development, could help treat the underlying cause of disease with a drug that, due to its stapled formation, could be stable without refrigeration.

Verdine cofounded Aileron Therapeutics in 2005 to commercialize the stapled-peptide technology, and the company has since tested its peptides in multiple animal models of cancer. According to Verdine, Aileron plans to start its first human trials sometime next year.

“It’s a very attractive approach,” says McCormick. “The next step will be seeing if these drugs will make it all the way through to the clinic. We’ll be watching closely and with optimism.”

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Credit: Verdine Laboratory, Harvard University

Tagged: Biomedicine, cancer, drugs, protein, molecules, therapeutics

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