Adapting protein sequences for optimized therapeutic efficacy
Therapeutic proteins alleviate disease pathology by supplementing missing or defective native proteins, sequestering superfluous proteins, or by acting through designed non-natural mechanisms. Although therapeutic proteins often have the same amino acid sequence as their native counterpart, their maturation paths from expression to the site of physiological activity are inherently different, and optimizing protein sequences for properties that 100s of millions of years of evolution did not need to address presents an opportunity to develop better biological treatments. Because therapeutic proteins are inherently non-natural entities, optimization for their desired function should be considered analogous to that of small molecule drug candidates, which are optimized through expansive combinatorial variation by the medicinal chemist. Here, we review recent successes and challenges of protein engineering for optimized therapeutic efficacy.