HitGen taps Cambridge Molecular for 'deep learning' drug discovery collab

Chinese drug discovery biotech HitGen is teaming up with U.K.-based Cambridge Molecular to better seek out new drugs.

The pair has penned an exclusive alliance, financials of which were not shared, to create the so-called DeepDELve 2 – Cambridge Molecular’s highly optimized DNA encoded library (DEL)-specific deep learning system, which will be wedded to HitGen’s own DEL discovery platform.

DeepDELve 2 is a “robust and highly specialised deep learning pipeline,” according to the partners, that allows clients to readily access potential ligands for drug targets.

“By combining the scale and success of HitGen’s DEL technology with Cambridge Molecular’s powerful machine learning capabilities, we are witnessing the emergence of a highly effective approach to accessing expanded chemical space for drug discovery via available chemical providers or even virtual enumerated chemical designs,” said Jin Li, Ph.D., chairman and CEO of HitGen.

“We look forward to further accelerating and empowering our partners in discovering and developing innovative medicines.”

RELATED: HitGen picks up Vernalis' drug hunters from Ligand for $25M

HitGen’s drug discovery capabilities center around a DEL. During the synthesis process, HitGen adds building blocks to novel chemical structures through a technique called “split and pool,” then encodes each compound with a known sequence of DNA.

The compounds are screened simultaneously against a target, and only those with strong affinity to the protein will be advanced into the next phase, where the structures of selected chemicals will be identified via DNA sequencing.

It offers different partnering models and is able to design and synthesize DELs on specific requests, screen its DELs against targets provided by a partner and work with partners to co-develop lead candidates or out-license projects.

Cambridge Molecular, meanwhile, focuses on the development of machine learning and data science tools for DEL applications.

This follows similar collaborations HitGen has entered over the years, including with the likes of Evotec in 2020 focusing on anti-infectives. And, last October, Ligand Pharmaceuticals traded its Vernalis research operations over to HitGen for $25 million in cash.

It also has pacts with some of the world’s biggest pharmas including Pfizer, Merck, Biogen, Sun Pharma and Boehringer.