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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    How a Dick's Drive-In Hamburger Fueled a Celiac Disease Breakthrough

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      A potentially major breakthrough in celiac disease treatment owes at least part of its success to a simple drive-in hamburger from Seattle's legendary Dick's Drive-In.


    Caption: Image: Google Images--Oran Viriyincy

    Celiac.com 06/11/2019 - A potentially major breakthrough in celiac disease treatment owes at least part of its success to a simple drive-in hamburger from Seattle's beloved and legendary Dick's Drive-In.

    If you have celiac disease, and haven't heard of PvP Biologics, you likely will. PvP originated in 2011 as an award winning student biology project at the University of Washington Institute for Protein Design, a lab that has created several successful startups. 

    PvP's enzyme-driven product, KumaMax, is designed to break down gliadin, the part of gluten that triggers an autoimmune reaction in people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. 

    Like most similar enzyme therapies, KumaMax is not designed to be a cure for celiac disease, but to help prevent adverse reactions from accidental gluten contamination. KumaMax is designed to break down gluten in the stomach, and to help prevent a gluten reaction.

    Celiac.com covered part of the PvP story in 2017 in our article "Takeda Taps PvP Biologics to Develop Celiac Disease Therapy." That story covered PvP's deal with Japanese drug giant Takeda, which gave the startup $35 million to complete a phase 1 clinical trial, at which point Takeda has the option to purchase the startup.

    Apparently, when it was time for PvP Biologics to test KumaMax, the research team needed to make sure their enzyme would work in the stomach, and work only against gluten proteins, not against meat or dairy proteins. The team wanted a meal that would allow them to test the gluten-neutralizing properties of their drug in conditions that mimicked the human stomach. For that meal, the team turned to Dick's Drive-In, purveyors of fine burgers. 

    “We got a hamburger and a vanilla milkshake from the Dick’s Drive-In in Wallingford,” said Ingrid Pultz, co-founder and chief scientific officer of PvP. “If we were going to get a hamburger, it might as well be from Dick’s. It’s a Seattle institution.”

    Team members labeled the food as lab equipment. They then blended and acidified the mixture, to mimic the stomach environment, and added the KumaMax enzyme. The enzyme worked well enough to become PvP's lead molecule, and to earn the support of Takeda. 

    So there you have it. KumaMax, the breakthrough gluten dissolving enzyme that may offer celiacs some protection against accidental gluten ingestion has its roots in a simple hamburger and milkshake from Seattle institution, Dick's Drive-In.

    Read more at Geekwire.com


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    So grateful to see many working on a "pill" that will someday stop the horrid at least one hour of throwing up which happens any time I accidentally get gluten in me.  (Last time I ate at a restaurant, they gave me wheat tortillas instead of corn.)  This was after a long explanation of how I would get deathly ill.  Two hours & 15 min. later I threw up everything for about an hour.  Horrid.

    Edited by E. Kay Harris

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, science, and advanced research, and scientific methods. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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