Breakthrough for peptide medication - The “Holy Grail” of peptide chemistry: Making peptide active agents available orally


Coauthors Dr. Florian Reichart, Dr. Andreas Räder, Michael Weinmueller and Prof. Horst Kessler (fltr) in the laboratory. (Photo: Uli Benz / TUM)

Peptides, short amino acid chains that control many functions in the human body, represent a billion-dollar market, also in the pharmaceutical industry. But, normally these medications must be injected. A research team led by the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has now determined how peptides can be designed so that they can be easily administered as a liquid or tablet.

Peptides are short chains of amino acids. In the human body, they control diverse functions as signaling molecules. Well-known examples include insulin, which comprises 51 amino acid building blocks and controls the metabolism of sugar, or cyclosporine, an eleven amino acid-peptide that has been proven to suppress organ rejection after transplants.

“Peptides are wonderfully well-suited as medication,” says Horst Kessler, Carl von Linde Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study at TU Munich. “The body already uses them as signaling molecules, and when they have done their job, they can be recycled by the body – no accumulation, no complicated detoxification.”

Worldwide, there are currently some 500 peptide-based medications in clinical trials. A handful of peptide medications are already commanding revenues in the billions. But the fact that they cannot be administered as tablets is a decisive disadvantage of almost all substances in this category.

A full press release can be found here.