Atomwise inks 2 joint ventures in AI-based cancer drug development

Artificial intelligence-based drug designer Atomwise has launched two new joint venture projects—one to test its bespoke molecules in living tumor organoids and another to develop targeted inhibitors of a protein linked to triple-negative breast cancer.

For the former, the company’s work with SEngine Precision Medicine aims to create targeted cancer therapies through what they describe as “in vitro clinical trials”—using organoids derived and grown from individual patients’ tumor cells to screen hundreds of potential drugs and combinations.

To start, the Seattle-based SEngine will provide gene targets related to cancer growth; then, Atomwise will use its AI programs to develop personalized small-molecule inhibitors that will be tested within the organoid models.

“The combined capabilities of this collaboration create a model for the next generation of drug discovery to decrease time to market and lower the cost of clinical trials,” SEngine founder and CEO Carla Grandori said in a statement.

“The process from discovering a promising small molecule to validation for a clinical trial candidate may now be accomplished at a fraction of the cost and time required of current efforts which may take up to 10 years,” Grandori added.

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In its second, separate joint venture, Atomwise will work with the preclinical-stage biotech OncoStatyx, to develop small molecule compounds against KDM5B, an epigenetic modulating protein linked to triple-negative breast cancer.

Atomwise will model interactions with different inhibitors against the target, with the goal of reactivating and boosting the expression of a solid tumor-suppressing protein, HEXIM1. The joint venture aims to optimize OncoStatyx’s lead compounds and move the Cleveland-based company into clinical testing.

“Our collaboration will be transformative for a scrappy Midwestern upstart like OncoStatyx and levels the playing field for us in very significant ways,” said OncoStatyx’s co-founder and CEO, Matt Lawes. “It allows us to stay both ultra-lean and fast and pursue a novel approach to treating solid tumor cancers by switching off multiple cancerous properties.”

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“We are planning to develop the first medicine to induce the expression of a tumor suppressor as the primary therapeutic approach to treat solid tumor cancers,” said co-founder and chief scientific officer, Monica Montano, a professor of pharmacology at Case Western School of Medicine.

“As an academic researcher it’s very gratifying to see the translation of my lab’s work on tumor suppressor HEXIM1 into potential clinical medicines,” Montano said.