Design and generation of new absorption-enabling peptides for oral delivery of biologics

Dr Driton Vllasaliu, Institute of Pharmaceutical Science, King's College London
Dr Roger New, Proxima Concepts

Project Description

Biological drugs (e.g. peptides and proteins) have transformed modern medicine and accounted for 7 out of 8 top selling drugs in 2014. Their administration is limited to injection due to poor stability in the gastrointestinal system and negligible intestinal absorption following ingestion. Injections are less accepted by patients compared to orally-administered dosage forms and are expensive to manufacture and administer. Several physiological components of the gastrointestinal tract limit the systemic absorption of biologics, but the intestinal epithelium is the most formidable and challenging barrier to overcome. Current approaches to improve oral biologics absorption typically employ ‘absorption enhancers’ that non-selectively disrupt and increase intestinal permeability, but safety concerns (e.g. associated with many surfactants) have hindered their clinical translation. Therefore, there is an unmet need in safe and effective technologies for oral delivery of biologics.

Key to safe and effective oral delivery of biologics are materials that can potentially ‘smuggle’ drugs selectively across the intestinal mucosa without disrupting this physiologically important barrier. These can be conjugated to the drug or drug delivery systems (e.g. those based on nanomaterials). In collaboration with an industrial partner, Proxima Concepts, and utilising their discovery platforms, this project aims to develop novel transport (transcytosis)-enabling materials that promote oral absorption of biologics without disrupting the epithelium. These are peptide-based, designed taking inspiration from a natural macromolecular ligand that readily crosses the intestinal mucosa by transcytosis via its receptor. Through its potential to offer alternatives to injections, the technology developed in the project could translate into healthcare benefits.


Interested applicants are encouraged to contact Dr Driton Vllasaliu ( in advance of the deadline.

Closing date is 19th January. Please ensure that you read the Guidelines before submitting an application. Your application and supporting documents should be sent in a single email to


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