The classic way to discover a drug is to screen thousands of compounds. Pangaea Pharmaceuticals is letting the human body do the work.

The Cambridge, Mass., company is developing naturally processed peptides to modulate immune responses, using the information selected by the body's own antigen presenting cells (APCs) and presented to T cells. This includes antigenic peptides derived from mutant self proteins or from intracellular pathogens.

In addition, the company is targeting self peptides, derived from an individual's normal proteins that are presented by APCs, for autoimmune disease.

The technology is based on discoveries by Harvard University scientists Mary Lynne Hedley, Robert Urban and Roman Chicz, which led to a heightened understanding of how certain naturally processed peptides function and how such peptides could be synthesized in the precise form that they normally take in the body.

The possibility of developing immunotherapeutics based on this discovery stimulated the researchers to found the company in 1992.

The MHC connection

Immunity is dependent on class I and II