Aelin Therapeutics will develop its Pept-in technology, which could hold the answer to the growing antibiotics resistance crisis.

Aelin Therapeutics is a Belgian biotherapeutics company that is hoping to pioneer Pept-in, protein knockdown drugs that could revolutionize the antibiotics field and open up previously undruggable targets. The company was founded by VIB and partner universities across Belgium to look into the potential of using structural biology in medicine. With an impressive €27M Series A secured, Aelin hopes to bring its first Pept-in product to the clinic.

Pept-in induces protein aggregation to prevent a target protein from performing its function. The technology has been tested in bacteria, cancer cells, fungi, plant cells and against viruses so far. Pept-in can be customized to target a specific protein, with its capacity to move into cells allowing it to access intracellular targets, which have remained out of reach for small molecules or antibodies.

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One field that Pept-in is focusing on is bacterial infections, an area in need of innovation considering the mounting resistance against current drugs. Antibiotic resistance is estimated to kill around 700,000 people each year and it is expected to overtake cancer by 2050. Rising development costs and the relatively low returns due to rapid resistance have slowed progress, but a new approach, like Pept-in, offers new hope.

The company’s technology is based on the work of renowned structural biologists, Joost Schymkowitz and Frederic Rousseau.

Aelin attracted funding from investors, including LSP, Novartis Venture Fund, and Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund. Anne Portwich, Partner at LSP, told us what she looks out for when deciding where to invest – qualities that she must have seen in Aelin: “I’d like to see that companies think more about product positioning in the market… They should have a clear idea of how a product fits into the current way that things are being done.” In addition, Aelin is tackling a big problem that is in urgent need of new drugs. 

Biotechs around Europe are taking a range of approaches to developing new antibiotics. Fresh from its FDA approvalAiCuris is testing AIC499, a β-lactam for use in combination with β-lactamase inhibitors to prevent resistance. TCR company, Immunocore, has stepped into the field after receiving backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to adapt its anticancer technology to tuberculosis infections. Elsewhere, Da Volterra has developed a medical device to protect the gut microbiota, blocking dangerous Clostridium difficile infections.

Peptides have huge potential, as highlighted by their application to a wide range of therapeutic areas. If Aelin can successfully use them to treat bacterial infections, it will be a massive boost in the fight against antibiotic resistance – one of the biggest challenges facing our generation.


Images – Nathan Dobkins / shutterstock.com; VIB

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