My broad aims in the next five years are to develop new methods that will enhance the potential of peptides as drug leads, derive new knowledge on medically important peptide-receptor interactions, and progress at least one peptide-based drug to the clinic. The methods to be developed are applicable to a wide range of diseases but I will have a focus on cancer, pain and multiple sclerosis in the first instance.
Why try to make peptide-based drugs? In the past peptides have been regarded as excellent drug leads (being highly potent and highly selective for endogenous targets) but have been limited in their applications as drugs because of poor stability and bioavailability. If these limitations can be overcome then peptides have clear advantages over small molecule drugs, which are often not selective for their target, leading to side effects and toxicity. My lab has been a pioneer in the discovery of a class of peptides that are especially suitable for drug development, namely gene-coded cyclic peptides and I aim to capitalize on the unique properties of these peptides and my competitive edge in the field to build a world-class capacity to exploit them for pharmaceutical applications.
The specific objectives are to:
1. develop new methods for discovering bioactive peptides that bind to protein targets
2. develop ultra-stable cyclic peptide scaffolds as drug leads
3. foster the development of plants as production factories for peptide-based pharmaceuticals
4. establish a pipeline for the commercialisation of peptide drug leads via building collaborations with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies and training the next generation of PhD students and postdocs to advance drug development in Australia