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Potential cure for celiac advances at the UW

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Ingrid Swanson Pultz (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE -- There’s promising news from the University of Washington for those who suffer from celiac.

Research to create a cure for celiac disease that started on campus is now moving to the next level with a start-up company.

"This has the potential to be used orally to break down gluten before it can reach the intestines,” said Ingrid Swanson Pultz, Ph.D., who co-founded PVP Biologics.

The startup is licensing the technology originally developed at the University of Washington to eventually find a cure.

This all started with Pultz leading a group of undergrads who chose gluten intolerance as their summer project in 2011.

“And so there aren't any naturally occurring proteins that do this and so we started with an enzyme that already works very well in stomach conditions and then we used the Rosetta molecular- modelling suite which was developed here at the university,” said Pultz.

The Rosetta model is a software program used to redesign proteins.

When this work started five years ago, Pultz said, the students treated it almost like a video game -- a competition to build the best synthetic protein to break down gluten.

"It worked. It didn't work extremely well, but it worked,” said Pultz.

So well in fact, that the students' prototype won a global competition that fall -- the first time that a U.S. school ever won that particular competition.

The students moved on with their studies, but Pultz didn’t give up. She took it on as her post-doctoral work.

“And we further developed the enzyme, and now we have something that's really, really powerful,” she said.

Grant money only goes so far for research, so now the university welcomes Pultz and her partners in PVP Biologics to Fluke Hall, which is designed specifically for these types of startups. The startup moves into its new lab Jan. 1.

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