A triumvirate of aging-focused biotechs and researchers—the AI company Insilico Medicine, the portfolio-based startup Juvenescence and the nonprofit Buck Institute—have formed a new joint venture to develop small molecules for a novel target in a bid to extend life spans.
The combined Napa Therapeutics will focus on developing NAD+ metabolism research from the lab of Eric Verdin, M.D., president and CEO of the Buck Institute, and using Insilico’s drug development engine to discover new compounds.
“This is a unique opportunity to use cutting-edge AI to accelerate drug discovery,” said Verdin in a statement. “The Buck is excited to join forces with Insilico and Juvenescence as we work to eliminate the threat of age-related disease for this and future generations.”
Napa will serve as a privately held British Virgin Islands company, with an office in the Isle of Man, where Juvenescence is based. Juvenescence in-licenses aging-related assets and has previously formed joint ventures with Insilico, as well as with other AI, clinical trial and drug discovery partnerships. Should the Napa program be successful, Insilico could reap $100 million in milestone payments.
Verdin’s lab is studying the role of sirtuins, deacylating enzymes and signaling metabolites from the mitochondria, and their regulation of aging—including hundreds of target proteins revealed through proteomic analyses, with some involved in major metabolic pathways such as fatty acid oxidation, the release of stored energy and the breakdown of glucose.
“We are very happy to partner with the Buck Institute and Juvenescence around a very promising set of targets in a pathway overlooked by the pharmaceutical industry,” said Alex Zhavoronkov, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Insilico Medicine, who also serves as an adjunct professor of artificial intelligence at the Buck Institute.
Napa will employ Insilico’s adversarial neural networks that compete to generate and evaluate drug candidates through a machine learning-based discovery pipeline. Insilico recently linked up with WuXi AppTec to test its AI-generated novel molecules in challenging biological targets.
“Aging research is among the most altruistic causes that will improve and extend the lives of everyone on the planet and reduce the pain and suffering associated with the age-associated diseases,” Zhavoronkov said.