Public Release: 

Researchers develop long-lasting growth hormone

University of Sheffield

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have developed a long-acting growth hormone for use in human therapy. The new discovery could mean that children and adults with growth hormone disorders will not have to have injections as often, reducing the need for daily treatments.

Most hormones and cytokines have a short life and therefore require frequent injections as therapy. However, the new technology developed by the multidisciplinary team at Sheffield, means that scientists and clinicians are able to generate effective, long-acting hormones which promote growth over a minimum of ten days, after just one injection.

The research, published in the prestigious journal Nature Medicine, shows that the hormones are able to act for longer because of unique characteristics in the new molecules created in Sheffield.

Hormones normally circulate in blood attached to binding proteins that prevent their clearance from the circulation and prolong their biological action. The new molecules created by the scientists, however, are able to bind to each other in a head-to-tail configuration, doubling their molecular mass in the bloodstream. This delays their absorption and elimination from the blood and therefore generates a hormone that will last for a longer period of time.

Professor Richard Ross, from the University´s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said: "We are very excited by these results and believe this technology will bring significant benefit to patients. Children and adults with growth hormone deficiency have to give themselves daily injections and it is hoped that the new technology will reduce the number of times they have to do this to once every two weeks, or even once a month."

Professor Peter Artymiuk, a structural biologist in the University´s Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, added: "Although we are only in the early stages of the drug development process, and any drugs resulting from this research are several years away from approval, it´s wonderful to see the science translate from the computer screen to what we hope will be real benefits for patients."

Professor Jon Sayers, from the University´s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, commented: "We believe that the technology can also be applied to treat inflammatory diseases such as multiple-sclerosis, cancer and metabolic diseases."


The team of academics are founder shareholders in Asterion Ltd, a Biofusion portfolio company from the University of Sheffield, set up in 2001 to commercially exploit this breakthrough. The company, which has been supported by SUEL Ltd, the White Rose Seedcorn Fund and Biofusion, has a major research collaboration with the French pharmaceutical company Ipsen.

Notes for Editors: The three academics involved in the research are: Professor Richard Ross and Professor Jon Sayers, both from the University of Sheffield´s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and Professor Peter Artymiuk, from the University´s Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology.

Asterion Ltd. was founded in 2001 and is a Biofusion spin-out company based on world-class research from the University of Sheffield. Using its technologies, Asterion are able to produce cytokine agonists and antagonists which have a number of commercially important characteristics including long half-life, high specificity, high potency and the potential for a reduced side effect profile and unwanted immune responses.

Cytokines are a subset of hormones: they are soluble proteins that enable communication between cells and the external environment, including the immune system. Cytokines hold huge potential for the treatment of disease due to their often fundamental roles in the development and progression of disease.

Biofusion was established in 2002 to commercialise university-generated IP. Biofusion has signed long term agreements with two of the UK's top ten research intensive universities (University of Sheffield and Cardiff University) giving a combined R&D spend attributable to Biofusion of approximately £114 million a year. The Company has a portfolio of 24 spin-out companies.

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