Cambridge, UK. Actinova Ltd., a subsidiary of Active Biotech AB (Sweden), has announced today a collaboration with the United Medical and Dental Schools of Guys, Kings and St. Thomas' hospitals (UMDS), London, UK, to develop a novel therapeutic product for the prevention and treatment of tooth decay. As well as offering widespread treatment potential, the new therapy could benefit specific groups of patients such as those with head and neck cancer and Sjögren's Syndrome - conditions known to be associated with severe tooth decay.

The treatment represents a novel approach to anti-microbial therapy in which a peptide (a small protein fragment) is used to block bacteria from colonising teeth by binding to specific sites (receptors) on the surface of teeth that would otherwise be targets for bacterial attachment. Once attached to the receptors, the peptide (p1025) specifically prevents the bacterium Streptococcus mutans (known to be the primary cause of tooth decay) from binding to teeth and initiating the tooth decay process.

"Our aim is to focus efforts on developing p1025 for control of tooth decay in high-risk patient groups. There are an estimated two to four million Sjögren's Syndrome sufferers (source: Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation, USA) and around 300,000 head and neck cancer sufferers in the USA (source: American Cancer Society). These combined patient groups constitute a potential global market estimated to be worth more than $500 million," said Dr Steven Powell, Chief Executive Officer of Actinova. He added, "This collaboration demonstrates Actinova's leading position in targeting infections caused by Streptococci."

Promising results from an initial trial involving 11 volunteers are published in this month's Nature Biotechnology journal. In the study, p1025 was shown to prevent oral colonisation of S. mutans for up to four months after treatment, compared to re-colonisation within just two months in volunteers not treated with p1025. Conventional anti-tooth decay treatments such as those based on chlorohexidine or acidulated phosphate fluoride can promote tartar build up, damage porcelain- or glass-filled composites and cause teeth to stain.

"The p1025 peptide represents a truly innovative way of preventing oral bacterial colonisation using a mechanism which could be developed to target a wider spectrum of bacterial infections. The search for new approaches to anti-microbial therapy is particularly important in today's environment where more and more infections are showing signs of resistance to existing treatments," said Dr Charles Kelly of UMDS, UK.