The Synergistic Use of Computation, Chemistry and Biology to Discover Novel Peptide-Based Drugs: The Time is Right

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The case for peptide-based drugs is compelling. Due to their chemical, physical and conformational diversity, and relatively unproblematic toxicity and immunogenicity, peptides represent excellent starting material for drug discovery. Nature has solved many physiological and pharmacological problems through the use of peptides, polypeptides and proteins. If nature could solve such a diversity of challenging biological problems through the use of peptides, it seems reasonable to infer that human ingenuity will prove even more successful. And this, indeed, appears to be the case, as a number of scientific and methodological advances are making peptides and peptide-based compounds ever more promising pharmacological agents. Chief among these advances are powerful chemical and biological screening technologies for lead identification and optimization, methods for enhancing peptide in vivo stability, bioavailability and cell-permeability, and new delivery technologies. Other advances include the development and experimental validation of robust computational methods for peptide lead identification and optimization. Finally, scientific analysis, biology and chemistry indicate the prospect of designing relatively small peptides to therapeutically modulate so-called ‘undruggable’ protein-protein interactions. Taken together a clear picture is emerging: through the synergistic use of the scientific imagination and the computational, chemical and biological methods that are currently available, effective peptide therapeutics for novel targets can be designed that surpass even the proven peptidic designs of nature.