Lead is one of the most toxic metals to humans: lead poisoning kills about one million people a year, while every third child in the world has dangerous levels of lead in their blood. The two currently available drugs used to treat lead poisoning are ineffective and suffer from high toxicity. Therefore, above 90% of the patients cannot be currently treated against this systemic toxicant.
To address this problem, metaLead is developing short peptides that could vastly improve the state of selective chelation therapy, being safer and more potent in human cells and model animals. The novel short peptides bind toxic metals like lead while not binding metals essential to the metabolism, such as calcium and zinc, making them safe for children and pregnant women treated for high levels of metal poisoning.
In partnership with the University of Zurich metaLead has filed two patents and is testing the efficacy of their compounds on mercury, arsenic, and copper, the latter affecting people who suffer from Wilson’s disease (one in 30,000). The lead candidate could also be used in preventative treatments for people living in areas with high metal contamination.
The startup was founded by Michal Shoshan, an expert in medicinal inorganic chemistry who was a Marie Curie postdoctoral fellow at ETH before taking the lead of a research group in the University of Zurich’s Department of Chemistry, supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Her group works on developing novel solutions against metal poisoning and pollution for medicinal and environmental applications. The startup will invest the CHF 150,000 awarded by Venture Kick in nationalizing the patent and in IND-enabling studies.
“Receiving the support of Venture Kick goes far beyond the financial contribution,” Shoshan stated. “The training that helped to fine-tune the message along the journey, the exposure to a network of highly skilled and experienced professionals that generously share their valuable advice, and above all, the acknowledgment and belief in metaLead’s goals, all of these make Venture Kick a solid and powerful engine in our growth. I am delighted to take part in it.”
(Press release / SK)
Photo above: Dr. Michal Shoshan