5:30 PM
 | 
Oct 11, 2017
 |  BC Innovations  |  Product R&D

Artificial mini proteins

How Virvio is using artificial mini proteins to treat influenza

Virvio Inc. has spun out of a group from the University of Washington to develop artificial mini proteins as novel influenza therapeutics. The mini proteins, typically ranging between 30 and 50 amino acids in length, are a promising new class of therapy that may combine the stability and manufacturability of small molecules with the specificity of antibodies.

The compounds were designed using a computational platform called Rosetta, which David Baker’s team at the university’s Institute for Protein Design created in the late 90s, coupled with a high throughput approach to manufacture, screen and optimize proteins that could bind to targets of interest. Baker is professor of biochemistry and director of the Institute for Protein Design.

“We use computers to design hundreds of thousands of brand new proteins that never existed before in the world, completely from scratch, to bind these targets,” said Baker. “That’s something no one has done before.”

Virvio co-founder and Senior Scientist Merika Koday said the approach is in contrast to what’s typically done in the field, which is to take existing proteins and modify them to have new functions.

In a study published in Nature last month, Koday and Baker showed that the platform could design, produce and test thousands of mini proteins to target influenza HA as well as C. botulinum toxin B.

HA -- the most abundant influenza surface antigen -- undergoes a conformational change upon cell entry that is crucial for infectivity. Virvio’s mini proteins block that change.

“That’s what’s pretty cool about these mini binders - they’re these rock-solid sticky things that only bind what we want them to, and prevent it from doing its job,” said Koday.

Table: BIOCENTURY PRODUCT PROFILE

BIOCENTURY PRODUCT PROFILE
INNOVATION STAGE
ProductMini protein inhibitor of influenza A virus hemagglutinin (HA) in viral subtype H1
ConceptMini protein that prevents or treats infection by targeting a conserved stem region of HA and disrupting a conformational change the virus must undergo to invade host cells
DiseaseInfluenza
CompetitionAntibody-based therapies; flu vaccines
DifferentiationHigher affinity than antibodies due to optimization afforded by the computational design method; no immune response to mini...

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