SYDNEY, Australia ¿ Peplin Biotech Ltd. said it identified and patented the role of protein kinase C (PKC) in several conditions, including sexual dysfunction and cardiological diseases. The protein is being studied by a number of other companies.

Peplin Managing Director Garry Redlich said that through a time study of the course of melanoma in mice and by in vitro cellular work, company researchers have shown that the company¿s lead anti-melanoma compound, PEP-005, worked through the modulation of PKC.

In addition, as part of the study, company researchers uncovered ways to modulate PKC to affect its role in other diseases.

PKC is a signaling molecule essential for many important cellular functions, including cell proliferation, differentiation and death.

¿The mechanism of action discovery is very important, because it locates our compounds in an exciting new area of cancer drug research ¿ that of cell signaling,¿ Redlich said.

He also pointed out that, among other companies, U.S. drug company Eli Lilly and Co. is studying the possibilities of modulating PKC¿s action, recently announcing that it would be spending $200 million on research into the use of PKC as a therapeutic target for lung cancer.

Redlich said that Brisbane-based Peplin is now looking for partners to develop the discovery.

As previously reported, Peplin plans a major Phase II trial next year for a treatment of skin cancer, and also has announced that it has taken out three patents on compounds that stimulate the human ¿innate¿ immune system. (See BioWorld International, Aug. 1, 2001.)