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Warwick technologies boost the development of better protein drugs

11 September 2012

PolyThericsTechnologies developed and patented by the University of Warwick and its spinout, Warwick Effect Polymers (WEP), are being developed for commercial use, supporting the effective delivery of a new range of biopharmaceutical drugs.

WEP was acquired earlier this year by the UK-based biopharmaceutical company, PolyTherics, which plans to develop WEP’s two proprietary technologies, PolyPEG® and GlycoPol®, in partnership with PolyTherics’ own emerging technologies to enable biopharmaceutical companies to produce safer, more effective protein-based drugs.

WEP was originally formed in 2000 by Professor David Haddleton, in the University’s Department of Chemistry. Its aim was to develop designer polymers to enhance the performance of protein drugs, which are becoming increasingly important for treating a range of conditions including immune diseases, such as arthritis or multiple sclerosis, cancer and metabolic diseases, such as diabetes.

The company, operating from a specialist laboratory at the University of Warwick Science Park, succeeded in attracting over £3 million in grants and investment with assistance from Warwick Ventures.

WEP’s technologies clearly complement those developed by PolyTherics, in particular PolyTherics’ patented TheraPEG™ linker, which site-specifically conjugates polymers, such as polyethylene glycol, or PEG, to protein drugs to extend their half-life, giving them a longer opportunity to have an effect in the body, or other agents, such as anti-cancer drugs, to antibodies for targeted delivery to a tumour. PolyTherics has already shown that it can conjugate PolyPEG®, a novel format of PEG, to a protein using TheraPEG™.

A major hurdle to overcome in administering protein drugs, however, is that often the doses need to be highly concentrated, which can make them viscous and thus difficult and painful to inject. WEP’s patented PolyPEG® technology enables the viscosity of the dose to be reduced, making the drug much easier to administer.

A further technology developed by WEP, enables a therapeutic agent to be better targeted within the body, using sugars to target particular tissues. GlycoPol® has already attracted interest from some large biopharmaceutical companies. PolyTherics plans to develop the technology further and has already secured a US patent for the technology.

Sally Waterman, Chief Operating Officer of PolyTherics, says: “PolyTherics was aware of the importance of the work that Warwick Effect Polymers had been doing and we have relationships in common with many customers. Ultimately it made sense for us to take this further step to bring PolyTherics’ and WEP’s technologies together.”

She added: “PolyTherics has also adopted some valuable aspects of WEP’s business practices that we believe will enable us to work much more flexibly with a much wider range of companies and be able to address their needs and requirements far more effectively.”

PolyTherics, whose head office is in London, is retaining WEP’s specialist laboratory facilities at the University of Warwick Science Park in Coventry, along with existing staff and is also now undertaking work using its own reagents on the premises.