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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Designer Therapeutic Proteins

 

Botulinum neurotoxin has achieved celebrity status through its use in cosmetic treatment. The most lethal toxin known in nature, it is also a notorious cause of the deadly food poisoning, botulism. Lay patients are less aware, however, that its ability to relax and paralyse muscles has many therapeutic applications.

It is not a perfect therapy, despite being used to treat inappropriate or excessive contractions of muscles throughout the body. Botulinum neurotoxin remains a highly toxic substance and a recognised bioterrorism threat, and it is only safe when used in low nanogram quantities. Since the toxin evolved to target nerve cells specifically, its effects are limited to conditions involving peripheral nerve transmission, and muscle relaxation in particular.

Both the toxic and therapeutic effects of botulinum neurotoxin arise from the same property: the ability to inhibit neurotransmitter release from nerve cells. Imagine if botulinum neurotoxin’s ability to target and inhibit nerve cell secretions could be widened to other cell types, while rendering it non-lethal.


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Dr Keith Foster is Founder and Head of Technology Development at Syntaxin Ltd. An internationally recognised expert on botulinum neurotoxins, he led the team at the UK Health Protection Agency that developed the proprietary technology that is the basis of Syntaxin, and co-led the spin-out of Syntaxin from the HPA in November 2005. He is an inventor on 16 international patent families with 29 granted patents worldwide, including the core patents underpinning Syntaxin’s neurotoxin technology, and has published over 40 scientific papers. Keith has over 25 years’ management experience in pharmaceutical R&D, including positions with SmithKline Beecham and Ipsen. He has an MA in Natural Science from the University of Cambridge and a PhD from the University of London.
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