The research that underpins afamelanotide began over 20 years ago in the US. At that time the dramatic increase in incidence of skin cancer and its impacts were beginning to be discovered and new solutions sought. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) sponsored researchers to explore applications for various peptides as part of its melanoma prevention strategy.
This study led them to investigate peptides that acted on melanocyte receptors. The rationale behind this being that increased melanin leads to more efficient photoprotection, as melanin is a highly successful and naturally occurring UV quencher and filter. By consistently increasing melanin in the skin, skin damage from light and UV radiation can be lessened.
A synthetic analogue of the naturally occurring alpha melanocyte stimulating hormone (α-MSH) was modified to increase binding affinity to its main receptor MC1R. Altered slightly, afamelanotide lasts slightly longer in the skin and delivers a prolonged result.
Since then, the company evolved, optimized and changed the peptide synthesis of afamelanotide, it reformulated the drug in a unique fashion to deliver the drug at a desired rate. Today, Clinuvel is investigating the photoprotective properties of afamelanotide in six indications (including the rare but severe form of congenital erythropoietic protoporphyria (CEP) being investigated under compassionate use).
Above all stands our goal of becoming a truly green pharmaceutical company by continuing to build our knowledge concerning light, UV, skin and health in an age when the realities of climate change are beginning to be realised and the full benefits of medicinal photoprotection are becoming more and more apparent.
- Philippe Wolgen