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Astellas, Veneno Technologies enter research agreement

Japanese-based companies Astellas and Veneno Technologies announced this week that they have entered a joint research agreement to develop functional peptides (DRPs) therapeutics.

Under the terms of the agreement, Astellas will leverage Veneno’s proprietary next-generation peptide discovery technology, the PERISS method (intra-periplasm secretion and selection) to target DRPs for G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). 

The PERISS method involves extracting the periplasmic fraction from bacterial cell walls, a space that regulates protein secretion, folding, and degradation. The protein is then released using a mild detergent, and can then be purified and characterized for use in drug development. GPCRs are also known to play a crucial role in cellular communication by receiving neurotransmitters and hormones and regulating the cell’s internal and external environment. 

DRPs refer to peptides that possess a distinct molecular structure with three or more disulfide bonds within the molecule, making them highly resistant to heat, pH changes, and degrading enzymes in comparison to other linear peptides. Because they can act as natural modulators with high potency and selectivity, DRPs have become an attractive novel drug discovery target. 

Veneno is a young company, first established in 2020 and backed by $200M raised during its first funding round. Its president and CEO, Kazunori Yoshikawa, lead AQUA Therapeutics, a fibrotic disease drug development biotech before joining Veneno.

As for Astellas, the biotech has had a busy few weeks, announcing earlier this month that its metastatic urothelial cancer drug had received accelerated approval from the FDA.