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Perseo pharma AG: Perseus’s Cap of Invisibility to develop a new class of medications

Enzymes have been used as drugs for the past 30 years. The first enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) for patients missing an important enzyme in their cells was developed in the 1960s on rats and the first therapeutic enzyme was approved by the FDA in 1987 to remove clots from blood vessels.

Since then approximately 30 therapeutic enzymes have been approved and are today on the market for a wide range of indications, from lysosomal storage diseases to heart attacks and cancer. The use of enzymes for this latter indication has seen growing interest in the recent years.

Oncaspar® (asparaginase) was approved a few years ago and is being efficiently used for the treatment of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). The enzyme depletes the blood from asparagine, an essential amino acid for the cancer cells. Such an amino-acid depletion therapy is gaining momentum for several other cancers.

However, three major issues have been limiting the number of therapeutic enzymes developed so far. Enzymes are not stable in the body. High and frequent dosing is the direct consequence. Enzymes are proteins and therefore trigger immune responses: 30 to 80 percent of the patients cannot receive the treatment. Native enzymes cannot be used directly in the body and must first be humanized. Perseo pharma has developed a therapeutic enzymes platform based on the shielding of the enzyme on sand-like particles (see pictures) using the enzzen® technology developed at the FHNW in Muttenz (BL) to tackle the three issues met by these compounds.

Perseo pharma takes its name from Perseus, the hero of Greek mythology who, by wearing the Cap of Invisibility was able to slay the Gorgon Medusa whose gaze was turning onlookers into stone. Perseo pharma’s therapeutic enzymes, with their stealth coating, can invisibly reach their targets so as to slay the disease.

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