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One of the biggest challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry lies in finding new generations of drugs that combine efficacy with low toxicity and costs. This is the context in which the new spin-off Iproteos has been created. It is driven by the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and the University of Barcelona (UB), with the guidance of the Bosch i Gimpera Foundation, and focuses on discovering third-generation drugs.

The company, located in the Barcelona Science park (PCB), was founded by Teresa Tarragó, researcher at IRB Barcelona, and Ernest Giralt, coordinator of the Molecular Pharmacology and Chemistry Program at IRB Barcelona and department chair at the UB.

Selective, more affordable drugs

The components of traditional drugs are relatively small in size, which causes them to join with a number of cellular components, often provoking a large number of side effects. In order to solve this problem, protein –second generation– drugs, like antibodies, have appeared over the past 20 years and are commonly used in treating some types of cancer. Although they are much more expensive, the larger-sized components allow these drugs to be more specific and produce fewer side effects. Protein drugs are created using genetically modified organisms, necessitating the use of costly purification processes in order to ensure they contain no toxic contaminants.

Iproteos will focus its efforts on researching peptides that block the actions of proteases, which are important therapeutic targets to treat a wide variety of diseases. For this reason, Tarragó and Giralt are combining their ample research experience on peptides and proteases with in-silico design techniques applied to new drugs and cutting-edge peptide-synthesis technology. “The intermediate size of peptides allows them to treat diseases as specifically and selectively as protein drugs, at prices similar to traditional therapies," explain Tarragó and Giralt. Furthermore, the chemical synthesis of peptides in the laboratory allows for improved biosafety and fewer undesirable immunological responses in patients.

The company has been created based on the transfer of technology generated by institutions at the heart of the IRB Barcelona and the UB. According to the founders, it is possible to have a first peptide drug candidate ready for clinical trials within three years.

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