Among the newest spin-offs from the Centre for Drug Design & Development at the University of Queensland is Promics Ltd., which is creating small molecules that reproduce, or mimic, secondary structural characteristics of proteins. Such structures include beta strands, turns, alpha helices and extended conformations. By mimicking the key shapes a protein uses to interact with other proteins, DNA or RNA in the body, Promics plans to make therapeutic compounds that retain the activity of proteins but have improved stability and oral bioavailability.

Although many attempts have been made to mimic peptide structures, David Fairlie, associate professor at the 3-D Centre and the scientific leader of the company, said Promics' small molecule approach is the first to have succeeded in important classes of proteins such as protease inhibitors and G protein-coupled receptor antagonists.