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UQ's Associate Professor Mark Smythe
UQ's Associate Professor Mark Smythe

In 2014, Protagonist Therapeutics, Inc. closed its US$18 Million Series B financing to advance the development of its oral development candidate to Investigational New Drug (IND) filing and initiation of Phase 1 clinical trials in the second half of 2015.

Protagonist's development candidate, designated PTG-100, is an orally stable, alpha-4-beta-7 integrin specific antagonist peptide that has the potential of transforming the treatment paradigm for inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) through its novel 'oral targeted therapy' approach.

"Alpha-4-beta-7 integrin is a clinically validated therapeutic target for IBD, a group of chronic, debilitating inflammatory conditions of the gastrointestinal tract, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which represent major unmet and growing medical needs," said David Liu, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer of the Company. "Protagonist has applied its proprietary technology platform to discover novel, potent, target-specific and orally stable peptides against this IBD-specific target. Additionally, Protagonist has validated the critical hypothesis of treating IBD with an oral peptide antagonist with positive outcomes in numerous pharmacodynamic and efficacy studies in animal models of colitis, thereby leading to the nomination of its first development candidate."

To date, the company has raised over $27 million in venture finance. The Series B financing was led by new investor Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation (JJDC) and included Pharmstandard International S.A., a holding company of the major pharmaceutical company in Russia, OJSC Pharmstandard (LSE: PHST). It also included the participation of Series A investors Lilly Ventures and Starfish Ventures (Melbourne, Australia).

Protagonist was founded in 2001 by IMB Associate Professor Mark Smythe who is now Vice President of Technology & Alliances.

The company has an innovative and proprietary technology platform that enables it to develop potent and orally stable peptides against protein-protein interaction targets that are undruggable by small molecules and therefore have historically been approached only by 'injectable biologics'. Oral peptides may lead to a superior and safer choice for patients, physicians, and payers by virtue of their better convenience & compliance, favourable cost of goods, and potentially enhanced safety & efficacy in comparison to the injectable antibodies.

Protagonist is headquartered at Menlo Park, California and has discovery operations at UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) in Brisbane and at Menlo Park.