Cyclica, a biotechnology company that uses AI to accelerate drug discovery, today announced it has raised $ 23 million. The proceeds will be used, according to CEO Naheed Kurji, to advance his platforms and strengthen his business plans, including expanding a pipeline of pre-clinical and clinical assets and tracking segments like agrochemicals.
Traditionally, the design of low molecular weight therapies – therapies with chemical probes that are not suitable as medicinal products, but inhibit or promote the function of certain proteins – have focused on disease-associated protein targets. Once a drug enters the body, it interacts with dozens, if not hundreds, of proteins before it is eliminated. These interactions can impair security or lead to opportunities for reuse. In addition, despite the usefulness of chemical probes, only 4% of human proteins have a known chemical probe available.
Cyclica's solution complements structure-based and AI-based drug discovery products: Ligand Design and Ligand Express. Together, they should contribute to the development of molecules that minimize undesirable effects and at the same time understand the activity of the molecules through integrated systems and pharmacogenomics (investigation of the role of the genome in drug response).
Ligand Design can design chemical entities across a range of targets, powered by a “metaheuristic” genetic algorithm called MatchMaker and an AI technology called POEM. The platform begins with the fragmentation of seed molecules and their derivatization with libraries to explore accessible chemical spaces. It then selects those with the desired properties from the hypothetical molecules in order to continue with the synthesis step. It then calculates polypharmacological profiles and selects those with preferred profiles before initiating cycles until some of the molecules with the desired properties remain.
Ligand Express is a cloud-based product that examines small molecules against repositories of structurally characterized proteins (proteomes) in order to determine optimal polypharmacological profiles. Using a drug-centered AI-based system, Ligand Express identifies significant protein targets and determines the drug's effect on these targets before the predicted drug-protein interactions become visible. In this way, the platform offers a panoramic view of small molecules, identifies interactions in order to elucidate mechanisms and to inform the prioritization of candidates.
With the support of the Ontario Centers of Excellence and IBM, Cyclica recently integrated a technology called Structural Pharmacogenomics (SPG) into Ligand Express. Using supercomputers, a database of nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) is mapped onto protein structures so that researchers can identify genetic variants that affect the binding of small molecules or are involved in diseases.
Cyclica's commercial strategy is to create hundreds of drug discovery programs across therapeutic areas through spin-offs and joint ventures with research institutions facilitated by an academic partnership program. The portfolio already includes more than 30 active and advanced drug research programs with young and emerging biotech companies, including EntheogeniX Biosciences, NineteenGale Therapeutics, Rosetta Therapeutics and the Rare Diseases Medicine Accelerator, as well as a joint venture with Mannin Research.
Drive Capital led the Series B financing round announced earlier this week with the participation of Chiesi Farmaceutici, GreenSky Capital and members of the Cyclica management team. After a round of $ 2.25 million in July 2017, the Toronto-based company increased to around $ 30 million.