Macromolecular engineering for medicine
With a focus on the prevention of infectious diseases, our work is based on the engineering of proteins and peptides to identify new macromolecules with potential use as medicines. Our main work has involved the engineering of chemokine proteins to produce highly potent HIV entry inhibitors for use in the prevention of transmission of the virus during sexual intercourse. A first clinical study of our best molecule is scheduled to take place at the HUG in 2014.
The chemokine analogues we have developed act by blocking CCR5, the principal HIV coreceptor, which is also a member of the G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) superfamily. Because they exhibit unusual inhibitory mechanisms that concern modulation of intracellular trafficking of CCR5, we are also able to use our analogues as tools for fundamental studies of the cellular and molecular processes that govern both the cell surface concentrations and signaling activity of GPCRs.
We also use our knowledge of both chemistry- and molecular biology-based protein engineering to collaborate on projects aiming to contribute to the development of (i) new peptide-based medicines from venomous animals (SIB and Atheris Laboratories), (ii) bispecific antibodies (NovImmune) and (iii) ApoA-I mimetic peptides for use in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular diseases (Dr Nicolas Vuilleumier).