Peptide therapeutics are a class of drugs that exploit the inherent pharmacological properties of peptides. They are defined as small molecules that can bind to cell surface receptors, and are used to trigger intracellular responses, acting as hormones, neurotransmitters, growth factors, ion channel ligands, or anti-infectives 1.
Peptides have several advantages over other small molecules in terms of pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic behavior (Table 2). These include high binding affinities to the target, high selectivity and specificity, and good efficacy.
They are also characterized by a high degree of bioactivity and minimal side effects. In addition, they are generally easier to manufacture than traditional small molecule drug candidates.
Currently, peptides are utilized to treat a wide variety of conditions, including metabolic diseases, cancer, cardiovascular and infectious diseases, pain and hematological disorders. The increasing demand for these drugs, rising investment in R&D, and advances in peptide manufacturing technologies are expected to drive the global peptide therapeutics market during the forecast period.
There are three types of peptides that can be used as therapeutics: native, analog, and heterologous peptides. Native peptides are derived from naturally occurring sequences, and they are the most easily tolerated. Analog peptides are not directly related to the natural sequence and have been adapted to improve their therapeutic potential, whereas heterologous peptides are derived from other species, are not naturally produced, and carry a higher risk of side-effects.
Despite the challenges associated with peptides, they are a promising path towards well-tolerated and effective treatments for a number of diseases. In particular, peptides target protein-protein interactions (PPIs) which are known to be dysregulated in many diseases. Moreover, advances in bioinformatics and protein synthesis technologies are making it possible to discover more diverse sequences.