The epidemic of COVID-19 remains a prominent healthcare challenge, affecting more than 70 countries and regions over the world. This rapid widespread has made more countries realize the need for international collaboration to address this global concern.
Renowned Chinese medical research institution in Beijing, Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, enters a strategic collaboration with Canadian-based biotechnology company Cyclica to discover antiviral drug candidates for COVID-19 and explore opportunities to design multi-targeted antiviral compounds.
While current efforts to develop new medicines through generative approaches for the COVID-19 outbreak can result in possible therapies, new drug development efforts can be resource intensive and require a number of years of both pre-clinical and clinical testing. As such, drug repurposing offers a more effective strategy that suits the urgency of the need for treatments of COVID-19. Artificial intelligence (AI) approaches to drug repurposing can be deployed to further expedite the recommendation of potential therapeutic solutions.
Cyclica used its proprietary deep learning engine, MatchMakerTM, to screen a collection of more than 6,700 FDA-approved drugs and drug candidates with at least Phase I clinical data against the structurally-characterized human proteome. MatchMaker is trained on millions of known human drug-target interactions (DTI) in addition to structural data. The resulting first-in-class database, named PolypharmDB, is a library of clinically assessed molecules and their polypharmacological profiles that can be used to identify repurposing opportunities for drug candidates.
Leveraging PolypharmDB and MatchMaker, Cyclica’s scientists investigated both human targets as well as viral proteins with potential therapeutic relevance for COVID-19 in rapid fashion. The result is a set of molecules that are predicted to interact with the putative therapeutic targets for COVID-19. While the results are promising, modelling viral proteins pushes MatchMaker beyond established benchmarks, increasing the uncertainty around predictions for those targets. The prioritized set of molecules resulting from the interrogation of PolypharmDB represents an actionable collection of molecules primed for testing.
In this collaboration, China’s Institute of Materia Medica will conduct in vitro and in vivo antiviral assessment for molecules proposed by Cyclica. In addition, the two parties will cooperate in a longer-term effort to design multi-target antiviral compounds with the goal of reducing drug resistance.
This international partnership is built on a historical relationship between Cyclica and China that stemmed from China-Canada Angel Alliance (CCAA), an angel investment group registered in Ontario, Canada. Naheed Kurji, President & CEO of Cyclica, says, “We have been closely following the progression of COVID-19 epidemic in China, and increasingly around the world. At the same time, we want to contribute our AI platform to searching for innovative therapies to overcome this viral outbreak in a way that is conducive to a rapid response. The opportunity to work with the leading scientists at the Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences is one that we couldn’t pass up.”
About China’s Institute of Materia Medica
The Institute of Materia Medica (IMM) was founded in 1958. Its scientists use the latest biomedical theories, cutting-edge technologies, and state-of-the-art laboratory equipment to develop drugs from botanical compounds, synthetic chemicals, and bioproducts. Since the institute’s establishment, its scientists have discovered or developed hundreds of new drugs and acquired 130 new drug certificates from the China Food and Drug Administration, IMM’s contributors have won 230 awards from the government and professional societies for drug research and development.
About China-Canada Angel Alliance
China-Canada Angel Alliance (CCAA) is an angel investment agency registered in Ontario, Canada, established in 2014 by a group of angel investors from Zhongguancun River Capital and the Zhongguancun Angel 100. CCAA is committed to building a cross-border ecosystem between China and Canada, and promoting international exchanges and collaboration between Chinese and Canadian entrepreneurs through joint investment, entrepreneurial mentorship, and connecting cross-border resources.
About Cyclica, Inc
Cyclica is a Toronto, Canada based biotechnology company that is decentralizing the discovery of new medicines with its integrated structure-based and AI-augmented drug discovery platform, Ligand Design and Ligand Express. Taken together Ligand Design and Ligand Express design advanced lead-like molecules that minimize unwanted off-target effects, while providing a holistic understanding of a molecule’s activity through integrated systems biology and structural pharmacogenomics. Cyclica’s differentiated platform opens new opportunities for drug discovery, including multi-targeted and multi-objective drug design, lead optimization, ADMET-property prediction, target deconvolution, and drug repurposing for a wide range of indications. With a world-class team with deep roots in industry and a first-in-class integrated drug discovery platform, Cyclica will spark a surge of innovation through a combination of venture creation and partnerships with early-stage and emerging biotech companies. By doing more with AI, Cyclica will revolutionize a system troubled with attrition and costly failures, accelerate the drug discovery process, and develop medicines with greater precision.