Articles, Blog

A new type of medicine, custom-made with tiny proteins | Christopher Bahl

February 22, 2020

I’m a protein designer. And I’d like to discuss
a new type of medicine. It’s made from a molecule
called a constrained peptide. There are only a few constrained
peptide drugs available today, but there are a lot that will hit
the market in the coming decade. Let’s explore what these new
medicines are made of, how they’re different and what’s causing
this incoming tidal wave of new and exciting medicines. Constrained peptides
are very small proteins. They’ve got extra chemical bonds
that constrain the shape of the molecule, and this makes them incredibly stable as well as highly potent. They’re naturally occurring,
our bodies actually produce a few of these that help us to combat
bacterial, fungal and viral infections. And animals like snakes and scorpions use constrained peptides in their venom. Drugs that are made of protein
are called biologic drugs. So this includes constrained peptides, as well as medicines like insulin or antibody drugs like Humira or Enbrel. And in general, biologics are great, because they avoid several ways
that drugs can cause side effects. First, protein. It’s a totally natural,
nontoxic material in our bodies. Our cells produce tens of thousands
of different proteins, and basically, all of our food
has protein in it. And second, sometimes drugs interact
with molecules in your body that you don’t want them to. Compared to small molecule drugs, and by this I mean
regular drugs, like aspirin, biologics are quite large. Molecules interact when they adopt shapes
that fit together perfectly. Much like a lock and key. Well, a larger key has more grooves, so it’s more likely to fit
into a single lock. But most biologics also have a flaw. They’re fragile. So they’re usually
administered by injection, because our stomach acid
would destroy the medicine if we tried to swallow it. Constrained peptides are the opposite. They’re really durable,
like regular drugs. So it’s possible to administer them
using pills, inhalers, ointments. This is what makes constrained peptides
so desirable for drug development. They combine some of the best features of small-molecule
and biologic drugs into one. But unfortunately,
it’s incredibly difficult to reengineer the constrained peptides
that we find in nature to become new drugs. So this is where I come in. Creating a new drug
is a lot like crafting a key to fit a particular lock. We need to get the shape just right. But if we change the shape
of a constrained peptide by too much, those extra chemical bonds
are unable to form and the whole molecule falls apart. So we needed to figure out
how to gain control over their shape. I was part of a collaborative
scientific effort that spanned a dozen institutions
across three continents that came together
and solved this problem. We took a radically different approach
from previous efforts. Instead of making changes
to the constrained peptides that we find in nature, we figured out how to build new ones
totally from scratch. To help us do this, we developed freely available
open-source peptide-design software that anyone can use to do this, too. To test our method out, we generated a series
of constrained peptides that have a wide variety
of different shapes. Many of these had never been seen
in nature before. Then we went into the laboratory
and produced these peptides. Next, we determined
their molecular structures, using experiments. When we compared our designed models with the real molecular structures, we found that our software
can position individual atoms with an accuracy that’s at the limit
of what’s possible to measure. Three years ago, this couldn’t be done. But today, we have the ability
to create designer peptides with shapes that are custom-tailored
for drug development. So where is this technology taking us? Well, recently, my colleagues and I
designed constrained peptides that neutralize influenza virus, protect against botulism poisoning and block cancer cells from growing. Some of these new drugs have been tested in preclinical trials
with laboratory animals. And so far, they’re all safe
and highly effective. Constrained peptide design
is a cutting-edge technology, and the drug development pipeline
is slow and cautious. So we’re still three to five years
out from human trials. But during that time, more constrained peptide drugs are going to be entering
the drug development pipeline. And ultimately, I believe
that designed peptide drugs are going to enable us all to break free from the constraints of our diseases. Thank you. (Applause)


  • Reply Sandeep Kumar February 19, 2020 at 6:42 pm


  • Reply Mohamed Amino February 19, 2020 at 6:42 pm

    I love TED

  • Reply Tamir Yosef February 19, 2020 at 6:43 pm

    This is a game changer!

  • Reply You Need to Know February 19, 2020 at 6:43 pm

    New type of medicine.

  • Reply Aboud. KA February 19, 2020 at 6:43 pm


  • Reply Introvert Leo February 19, 2020 at 6:44 pm

    Informative , great work sir. ,✌️

  • Reply Elvin Novruzaliyev February 19, 2020 at 6:45 pm

    TED • 155 wiews • 1minute ago 😇

  • Reply Trap Town TWC February 19, 2020 at 6:46 pm

    I enjoyed your video 🙂 Keep it up! Would you like to be YouTube friends? 🙂

  • Reply Trap Town TWC February 19, 2020 at 6:46 pm

    Great content. Keep it up! Would you like to be YouTube friends? 🙂

  • Reply Bass Town Ncs February 19, 2020 at 6:49 pm

    amazing video

  • Reply We Smoke Bitcoins February 19, 2020 at 6:49 pm

    Peptides? is that like Tidepods 2.0? Man, people love eating those things.

  • Reply Reign ElNino February 19, 2020 at 6:49 pm

    Pure genius.

  • Reply Jay Walker February 19, 2020 at 6:50 pm

    Are we done with bodily illness? One step closer to godhood or our destruction? At this rate why be immortal when so many people are indifferent to life. It's kinda funny in a way.

  • Reply logical fun February 19, 2020 at 6:50 pm


  • Reply Grace Morgan Speaks February 19, 2020 at 6:51 pm

    Whoever is going through hard times, sickness and delays. Dont give up you are a fighter. On my youtube channel it was not easy but i never gave up you are so close to victory

  • Reply Christy T February 19, 2020 at 6:51 pm

    Hopefully this will bring us new medicines for conditions that haven’t been able to be well treated by traditional pharmaceuticals. I hope for myself and many others who suffer from untreatable, disabling conditions….of course, that means someone will have to study these conditions.

  • Reply NPC #76 February 19, 2020 at 6:52 pm

    Now this is a ted talk, very nice 👍

  • Reply Balancing Life February 19, 2020 at 6:53 pm

    Safe and highly effective. Ya.. Right. Hearing that statement again and again. Just like all those vaccine injury lawsuits that were deemed safe and effective.

  • Reply Sarmad February 19, 2020 at 6:54 pm


  • Reply Vivek Nishad February 19, 2020 at 6:54 pm

    longevity escape velocity is near, singularity is near. – Ray Kurzweil

  • Reply Leo Pimentel February 19, 2020 at 6:56 pm

    I would love to attend one of these.

  • Reply Precious Xander February 19, 2020 at 6:56 pm

    I love all their inspirational videos..he also made me open a YouTube channel just to help myself.🙏🙏tha k you TED..In case you want to see the channel .

  • Reply Hny Bashir February 19, 2020 at 6:59 pm

    Cool it's amazing

  • Reply Don White February 19, 2020 at 6:59 pm

    Totally awesome! When people keeping on going on about the gloom and doom of the future they should stop and watch exciting things like this.

  • Reply A Person February 19, 2020 at 7:01 pm

    Strange way of speaking. Sort of undulating. Difficult to grasp the meaning of what he's saying (and I studied molecular biology at university!!).

  • Reply Enes Ustaoğlu February 19, 2020 at 7:04 pm

    Please add Turkish sub to videos

  • Reply Vizonari February 19, 2020 at 7:14 pm

    Anything you comsume that does not come from the earth is incompatible with your naturally body chemistry. (Solution) consume herbal plants with medicinal properties.

  • Reply Lucas Sonny February 19, 2020 at 7:30 pm

    We need research for thyroid disease.

  • Reply Finding A Better Way February 19, 2020 at 7:32 pm

    Transhumanism is Nyx

  • Reply Nathan February 19, 2020 at 7:33 pm

    I knew I should have gone to graduate school. 🙂

  • Reply February 19, 2020 at 7:42 pm

    The same can be done with hologram frequencies something I have done for over 17 years

  • Reply Rich Broz February 19, 2020 at 7:44 pm

    the future is always defined as 3-5 years out.

  • Reply Bearly Listening February 19, 2020 at 7:45 pm

    Artificial proteins never seen in nature. What could possibly go wrong?

  • Reply Saitama D. Itachi February 19, 2020 at 7:47 pm

    Sounds good, I hope it will help a lot of people as soon as possible.

  • Reply Qoraz X February 19, 2020 at 7:55 pm

    This sparked my interested but was not in depth enough for me to really understand what these peptides are about and how they get so special. Now I have to read up on it…

  • Reply J C February 19, 2020 at 7:55 pm

    Wow great presentation! This is very interesting!

  • Reply Dan Dan February 19, 2020 at 7:57 pm


  • Reply Els the Rebel February 19, 2020 at 8:00 pm

    But…..the pharmacy maffia still wants to make that 450 billion a year….yeah basically that means that you gonna pay for it big time..

  • Reply Entertainment boom February 19, 2020 at 8:05 pm


  • Reply xander rice February 19, 2020 at 8:13 pm

    well, watch big pharma brush this under the rug

  • Reply Remy Lebeau February 19, 2020 at 8:15 pm

    Seeing is believing.

  • Reply Petko Stoyanov February 19, 2020 at 8:27 pm

    This sounds great! Congrats!

  • Reply Annie S. February 19, 2020 at 8:39 pm


  • Reply settembrini42 February 19, 2020 at 8:45 pm

    Are these peptides really small enough to be orally bioavailable without a special drug delivery system? High target specificity is certainly desirable, but it is equally important that the drug can reach its target in the first place, by passing the intestinal and/or blood-brain barriers.

  • Reply HOD0R February 19, 2020 at 9:31 pm


  • Reply Mr Mike February 19, 2020 at 9:35 pm

    I wonder if this technology could ultimately be used to fight neurological diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, MS, Leukodystrophies, etc.? Why such a short presentation for something so significant? If it is a naval gazing topic TED lets those geeks drone on far too long.

  • Reply Adrian Carey February 19, 2020 at 9:43 pm

    Amazing. Genius stuff.

  • Reply The Huzaiz February 19, 2020 at 10:01 pm

    The woman with black hair and glasses at 2:24 be like:
    What u trying to say

  • Reply The Huzaiz February 19, 2020 at 10:02 pm

    But can it cure coronavirus?

  • Reply Regina Redding February 19, 2020 at 10:31 pm

    5 seconds in,🎓👣🌱🎉
    they play the sounds from the PHENOMENAL movie, 💥
    "What the Bleep do We Know"💦
    💜 SERIOUSLY interested already!

  • Reply Regina Redding February 19, 2020 at 10:36 pm


  • Reply Regina Redding February 19, 2020 at 10:43 pm

    Then why aren't they
    using this for the corona virus?

  • Reply Maverick Rhodes February 19, 2020 at 10:52 pm

    So simple, so direct, so on point. Ted Talks knows how to cater to a generation of minds that can not focus more then 4 minutes. The awakening and melding of Mankind with technology, is well under way. System integration commence

  • Reply Henry TheGreatAmerican February 20, 2020 at 12:06 am

    "constrained peptide"

    I can just picture two lab geeks "getting it on" and the chick asks the dude if his peptide is constrained.

  • Reply whoozl February 20, 2020 at 12:12 am

    Eventually, this leads to specific tailored-to-patient drugs… if we exactly understand what makes the patient ill.

  • Reply Tim Apple February 20, 2020 at 12:28 am

    Dude says "proteins are a totally natural, non-toxic material in our bodies". Bullshit. He himself just finished saying that most venoms are peptide-based. From wikipedia: "Antigens [i.e. allergens] are usually proteins, peptides…" And even if someone like him could come up with a medically-useful restrained peptide, there's precious little chance that it would be appropriately prescribed, even as per modern diagnostic priorities (i.e. 'fiscal restraint').

    Btw, I just recently started on biologics that cost $4G per month. Day 1: the injection site swelled up like a duck egg. Day 2: my upper torso and face turned red-going-on-purple. Within the week, I got the flu… because biologics are immuno-suppressors by design!
    But ok… let's say this is the path to the fountain of youth. What I would like to know is a) who gets the drugs, b) who reaps the profits, and c) what population control measures are we going to implement to compensate? [Oh that's right – a choice few of us will be getting fat on space-plankton by then. Thanks, Elon.]
    TED is just an echo-chamber. All style. No substance. A hangout for nerds with noticeably ill-fitting shoes.

  • Reply Beyleh February 20, 2020 at 1:12 am


    New medicine: Constrained peptides

    What are they made of?
    Small proteins with extra chemical bonds that constrain the molecule, making them very stable and highly potent.

    How are they different?
    There large size (relative to other medicines) makes them unlikely to react with other molecules making them more effective as this increases their accuracy (like a key that only fits a particular lock).

    What's causing this influx of new medicines?
    In the last 3 years, there has been sufficient advancements in programming technology allowing the complete construction of designer peptides from scratch. This has opened the doors to all kinds of new medicines that neutralize the influenza virus, protect against botulism poisoning and block cancer cells from growing.

    Subscribe to my music channel for an influx of new music. 🎧

  • Reply SBDz vision February 20, 2020 at 2:30 am

    Is this new type of medicine can cure Coronavirus?

  • Reply Why Always Me February 20, 2020 at 2:30 am

    Soooo…. where is the cure for Coronavirus

  • Reply Keallei February 20, 2020 at 3:01 am

    Anyone else click because they thought it was Daniel Radcliffe?

  • Reply Corey LeMont February 20, 2020 at 3:08 am

    Peptides are the future! BPC-157, Ipamorelin, CJC-1245

  • Reply Dirt Pool February 20, 2020 at 3:25 am

    a protein designer never such a thing…. this is interesting!

  • Reply 소리빌더,Metaphor English February 20, 2020 at 4:50 am

    I also hope it will make us free from all the disease constraints.

  • Reply bravojr February 20, 2020 at 4:52 am


  • Reply MrPlasticduck February 20, 2020 at 5:06 am

    If it's made in China I'm not buying it

  • Reply lokp asddq February 20, 2020 at 6:55 am

    Logic gates

  • Reply UnfinishedRiot February 20, 2020 at 9:39 am

    This is how you get Thread

  • Reply Superlative CG February 20, 2020 at 9:43 am

    Medicine and science is working to increase longevity and lifespans, while the quality of food is working in the opposite direction mass producing low quality and highly processed foods. We'll likely see a divide in people dying at both really young and old ages.

  • Reply Trần Huyền My February 20, 2020 at 2:20 pm

    chỉ nghe thôi ạ

  • Reply Aidas Baranauskas February 20, 2020 at 2:34 pm

    highly effective against cancer? Are you sure?

  • Reply Gzpo February 20, 2020 at 4:07 pm

    I want to do my thyroid and the autoimmune associated with it.

  • Reply Kanwardeep Singh February 20, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    Pyar de

  • Reply C Wavy February 20, 2020 at 9:31 pm

    It is so amazing, I hope it can become true in the recently future

  • Reply nunu business February 20, 2020 at 9:56 pm

    I'm waiting.

  • Reply Yi Cao February 21, 2020 at 11:24 am

    What's the name of your software's repo!

  • Reply Yi Cao February 21, 2020 at 11:25 am

    SO FAR

  • Reply MonkeyspankO February 21, 2020 at 5:31 pm

    Very good Ted News-talk, but could have used a little more elaboration

  • Reply 4Quatloos February 22, 2020 at 1:20 am

    A unique and special way to fight illness. I wonder how much they'll charge for it?

  • Leave a Reply