Monday, May 6, 1996
Cells are good at making proteins, people are not. Biotechnology started with proteins, but in the past few years, much of the industry's emphasis has shifted to small molecules, based on their advantages in oral delivery and low cost manufacturing. The genomics revolution may shift the pendulum once again, as the discovery of a multitude of novel proteins, about which little is known, focuses attention back on these large molecules.
Gryphon Sciences is positioning itself to take advantage of this shift with technology for the total chemical synthesis of proteins and protein-like molecules called Dextroceutical and Nanoceutical products.
There are two main challenges in protein chemistry: the synthesis of pure quantities of large peptide segments; and the ability to ligate (bind) those segments together to form a properly folded, functional protein.
Conventional peptide chemistry is limited to the production of molecules no larger than 30-40 amino acids in length. Adding each amino acid typically takes one to two hours - thus a peptide chain of 20 amino acids (20mer) can take 20-40 hours to synthesize. In addition, errors at each step of the synthesis result in a high level of "junk" in the final peptide. As a result, peptides longer than 30 amino acids are not routinely synthesized.
Going for size
Gryphon's methods, based on technology developed by founder Stephen Kent of the Scripps Research Institute, have enabled the company to routinely synthesize peptides of 80 amino