WARF: P140391US02

Peptides to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease


Regina Murphy, Jeffrey Johnson, Patricia Cho, Xiaomeng Lu

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in developing peptides that target amyloid-beta, a main component of the plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
OVERVIEWAmyloid-beta (Aβ) peptides play a crucial role in Alzheimer’s disease – they are a main component of the toxic amyloid plaques found in patients’ brains. Aβ is so dangerous because it can aggregate into misfolded forms and cause a chain reaction.

This link to Alzheimer’s disease has motivated the search for compounds that can bind to and inhibit Aβ activity. Numerous small molecules that alter Aβ production and/or aggregation have been explored but none have proven clinically effective. An alternative approach is to use peptides or peptide mimics because they have potential advantages over small molecules in terms of better target affinity and specificity.

In general, two strategies have been employed by researchers in the quest for Aβ-binding peptides: (i) designing peptides using self-complementation or (ii) screening random peptide libraries.
THE INVENTIONUW–Madison researchers have developed a new strategy to design peptides that could be turned into therapeutics to treat or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The cyclized (ring-shaped) peptides are derived from transthyretin (TTR), a protein found in cerebrospinal fluid that is known to bind to Aβ and inhibit its toxicity in vitro and in vivo. The new peptides mimic both the sequence and the hairpin structure of transthyretin’s Aβ binding domain.
  • Developing new Aβ-binding peptides that could be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease
  • Potential new weapon against devastating Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cyclized proteins are more stable (less susceptible to protease cleavage).
STAGE OF DEVELOPMENTBinding data and preliminary cell culture data show promise. The new peptides strongly interact with Aβ and affect aggregation, and also are able to protect neurons against Aβ toxicity at relatively low concentration.
Contact Information
For current licensing status, please contact Rafael Diaz at or 608-960-9847.
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UW–Madison has the integrative capabilities to complete many key components of the drug development cycle, from discovery through clinical trials. As one of the top research universities in the world, and one of the two best-funded universities for research in the country, UW–Madison offers state-of-the-art facilities unmatched by most public universities.

These include the Small Molecule Screening Facility at the UW Comprehensive Cancer Center; the Zeeh Pharmaceutical Experiment Station, which provides consulting and laboratory services for developing formulations and studying solubility, stability and more; the Waisman Clinical Biomanufacturing Facility; the Wisconsin Institute for Medical Research, which provides UW–Madison with a complete translational research facility; and the innovative, interdisciplinary Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, home to the private, nonprofit Morgridge Institute for Research and its public twin, WID, part of the university's graduate school. The highly qualified experts at these facilities are ready to work with you to create a library of candidates for drug development.