New Class of Herbal Peptides May Ameliorate Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms Interview with:


Dr. Christian Gruber

Dr. Christian W. Gruber PhD
Assistant Professor tenure-track and ARC Future Fellow
The University of Queensland,
School of Biomedical Sciences, Australia
Medical University of Vienna,
Center for Physiology and Pharmacology,
Vienna, Austria What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Gruber: We initially discovered that particular circular peptides (called cyclotides) isolated from an African traditional herbal medicine have promising immunosuppressive properties (Gründemann et al., 2012, J Nat Prod, 75(2):167-74).

Cyclotides are considered a pharmacological ‘treasure trove’ (Koehbach et al., 2013, PNAS, 110(52):21183-8). Hence we aimed at testing the efficacy of these peptides to treat and ameliorate multiple sclerosis, and found that the new plant-derived drug (‘T20K’), in an animal model, can block the progression of the disease. We demonstrated in an animal model that T20K stopped progression of the normal clinical symptoms of multiple sclerosis (Thell et al., PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1519960113). What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Gruber: The new drug is expected to be taken by mouth, in contrast to some current MS treatments where patients need to have frequent injections. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Gruber: Phase one clinical trials could begin as early as 2018. Licences have been assigned to Cyxone, a company established last year to develop this new class of drugs for the treatment of autoimmune diseases.

Cyxone’s immediate focus is on bringing T20K through the pre-clinical program required for delivering a safe, orally active drug. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Dr. Gruber: Cyclotides are present in a range of common plants, and they show significant potential for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. The T20K peptides exhibit extraordinary stability and chemical features that are ideally what you want in an oral drug candidate. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Kathrin Thell, Roland Hellinger, Emine Sahin, Paul Michenthaler, Markus Gold-Binder, Thomas Haider, Mario Kuttke, Zita Liutkevičiūtė, Ulf Göransson, Carsten Gründemann, Gernot Schabbauer, Christian W. Gruber. Oral activity of a nature-derived cyclic peptide for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2016; 201519960 DOI:1073/pnas.1519960113

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Last Updated on April 12, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD