LONDON Actinova Ltd., of Cambridge, has agreed to a collaboration with the United Medical and Dental Schools of Guys, Kings and St. Thomas¿ hospitals (UMDS) for the development of a peptide discovered by UMDS for the prevention and treatment of tooth decay. The technology represents a novel approach to preventing and treating streptococcal infections by using a peptide to preferentially bind to receptors on the teeth, preventing the bacteria from colonizing teeth by attaching to the same receptors.

The peptide, p1025, specifically prevents the bacterium Streptococcus mutans, the primary cause of tooth decay, from binding to the tooth and initiating the decay process.

Steven Powell, CEO of Actinova, which is a subsidiary of Sweden-based Active Biotech AB, told BioWorld International the deal is ¿a collaboration in the broadest possible sense and demonstrates Actinova¿s leading position in targeting infections caused by Streptococci.¿ Actinova will take on further preclinical work on p1025, while trials will be conducted at UMDS. Actinova will fund the work.

¿We are transferring further work on the peptide to our own site,¿ Powell said. ¿Within the company, we have a number of projects targeting streptococcal infections, and our research group in Sweden has 10 years of experience in the role of bacterial cell surface proteins of Streptococcus and ways to inhibit the binding of Streptococcus.¿

Although p1025 is still in preclinical development, UMDS has performed a human study in 11 volunteers. The results, published in this month¿s Nature Biotechnology, show that p1025 prevented oral colonization of S. mutans for up to four months after treatment, compared to recolonization within two months in volunteers not treated with p1025. Powell said there was no evidence that the bacteria simply attached to other surfaces, causing infection elsewhere. Existing treatments such as those based on chlorexidine or acidulated phosphate fluoride can promote the buildup of tartar and damage fillings, and may stain the teeth.

The peptide will initially be developed for use by patients at high risk of tooth decay due to impaired saliva production, including those with head and neck cancers whose salivary glands have been damaged by radiation therapy, and patients with Sjvgren¿s syndrome, a disease which affects the mucosal membranes. These groups represent a significant market, with around 300,000 head-and-neck cancer sufferers and between 2 million and 4 million Sjvgren¿s syndrome sufferers in the U.S. ¿These combined patient groups constitute a potential global market estimated to be worth more than US$500 million,¿ Powell said.

¿It is clearly an obvious leap from what we are proposing to an over-the-counter dental treatment, but we have not considered at this time how to go about that,¿ he said. ¿We will take it one step at a time.¿

Powell said p1025 is the most advanced project in Actinova¿s portfolio. n