Targeting drugs to diseased tissues is a major objective in contemporary medicine.
pHLIP, Inc. was founded to bring its proprietary pHLIP® Platform Technology to the clinic, aiming to improve the treatment of diseases where visualization and targeted therapy would be highly advantageous. The possible applications of the technology are wide-ranging, including cancer, inflammation and fibrosis.
Our dreams for the improvement of medicine include many possibilities: Imaging of the blood will allow the local circulation to be continuously monitored during surgery. Marking the surfaces of tumor cells will guide efficient and conservative removal of tumors or will activate the immune system to attack the tumor. Targeting of effective agents will alleviate inflammation. Targeted delivery of agents to cells in tumors will broaden the range of therapeutics while suppressing side effects.
The original pHLIP® peptide was discovered during studies of the ways that proteins fold in biological membranes.
Most proteins that are located across membranes have one or more helical segments that cross the lipid bilayer, and studies of these helical parts in a highly researched protein, bacteriorhodopsin, revealed that one of the helices could fold from a disorganized state outside of a membrane to form a helix across the membrane in response to local acidity.
Because cell surfaces are acidic in tumors and inflamed tissues, versions of pHLIP® peptides were studied and tested as possible tumor targeting agents over the course of 15 years of work at Yale, the University of Rhode Island, and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. These studies showed that a large variety of cargoes can be targeted to cell surfaces or delivered across membranes into cells if their surfaces are acidic, creating opportunities to detect and treat acidic diseased tissues.
The technology was licensed from Yale, the University of Rhode Island, and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The licenses include exclusive Worldwide commercial rights to the pH peptide patent families (18 patents and 30 patent applications) and pHLIP® trademark.