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Selected peptides as drug candidates directed to pain and neurodegeneration

Periodic Report Summary - PEP2BRAIN (Selected peptides as drug candidates directed to pain and neurodegeneration)

The final goal of the project was to identify at least one molecule that is suitable to proceed to clinical tests and eventually become a new drug, contributing to the well-being of patients suffering pain and/or neurodegenerative disorders. The project has started with a peptide drug lead that has to be modified and optimised in order to have the stability, low toxicity and efficacy needed to be used in humans. This is the core of the project. The researchers involved are working towards creating variants of the starting drug lead and finding the optimal variant, with the highest efficacy and lowest toxicity.

Finding new analgesic and/or neuroprotective drugs is of major importance as ageing and long-term diseases such as AIDS, some cancers and diabetes contribute to make pain and neurodegeneration problems of increasing importance. The project is programmed to last for 4 years, during which all the pre-clinical studies for selected variants of the drug lead will be carried out. So far, the project completed its first 24 months-term with success. Efficacy of the starting drug lead was reasonable, albeit not optimal, and the toxicity profile was very encouraging. Yet, stability had to be improved. New derivatives have been synthesised and tested for efficacy and stability. These results set an optimistic scenario for the future development of the project.

There were five inter-sectorial secondments since the beginning of the project, four of them being international. One academic researcher spent six months working abroad for a company and four biotech researchers of a company spent sixmonths-periods in academia, three of them abroad. IAPP projects, such as PEP2BRAIN, exist to promote and encourage transfer of knowledge, which has been fulfilled.

Two researchers have been recruited, as predicted, and the recruitment of a third one is underway. Nevertheless, administrative difficulties have seriously delayed the starting of the recruited fellows.

The project team has been active in the dissemination and promotion of the project. A web site was made available for non-technical audiences, explaining the molecular and physiological basis of pain, with a sub-section devoted to the project itself. This site was recently up-graded to a web portal specifically devoted to the project. Special attention was devoted to journalists and the press; news on the project have been diffused transnationally, for instance (Radio Paris International; broadcasted 15 September 2009). Seminars devoted to the development of the project were delivered in several universities in meetings in Europe and dissemination outreaching activities have taken place in high schools in Portugal.
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