Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Pharmaceutical and Chemical Sciences

First Advisor

Miki S. Park

First Committee Member

Mamoun Alhamadsheh

Second Committee Member

William K. Chan

Third Committee Member

John Livesey

Fourth Committee Member

Qinliang Zhao


Protein therapeutics are available as cytokines, clotting factors, enzymes, hormones, growth factors, antibodies et al. They have been shown to be effective in treating a variety of important human diseases. Since human insulin was approved as the first recombinant protein therapeutic, this field has experienced rapid growth. One of the biggest challenges for protein therapeutics in clinical application is their short half-life. Except for monoclonal antibodies, which have serum half-life for weeks, most of the protein therapeutics have half-lives ranging from minutes to hours. Kidney filtration, proteasome degradation and liver metabolism are the main factors that attribute to their short half-lives. The short half-life of protein therapeutics requires a higher dose or frequent application to maintain therapeutic concentration over a certain period. However, higher dose is easy to cause large plasma concentration fluctuation, which is easy to cause side effects. Most of protein therapeutics are not orally bioavailable. Frequent application will increase the burden of patients, affect their life quality, and reduce patient compliance. Thus, it is important to generate long-lasting therapeutics with improved pharmacokinetic properties. The current half-life extension approaches for protein therapeutics include PEGylation, albumin fusion or binding and fusion to an immunoglobulin Fc region. Their primary aim is to increase the size of biotherapeutics or to implement recycling by the neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn). However, the half-life extension by PEGylation, albumin fusion or Fc fusion is at the cost of binding affinity reduction. And the increase of size has limited their application in the field of anticancer agents where tumor penetration is required. Noncovalent albumin binding using albumin binding ligands such as fatty acids could maintain the small size and binding affinity. However, it would increase hydrophobicity, therefore is not suitable for protein therapeutics with low solubility. Here, we present a new approach for half-life extension for biotherapeutics. Human interleukin 2 (IL-2), a low solubility cytokine, was used as a model protein. By conjugating IL-2 with a hydrophilic small molecule that binds reversibly to the serum protein transthyretin, we enhanced its circulation half-life in rodents while maintained its in vitro bioactivity. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of a successful approach that harnesses a small molecule in extending the circulation half-life of a protein while at the same time maintains the small size and hydrophilicity.





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