Merck KGaA taps Cyclica for AI-based screening of protein-drug interactions

In Silico
Cyclica recently signed a similar compound-screening agreements with Bayer and WuXi AppTec. (Pixabay/Geralt)

Merck KGaA has licensed a cloud-based artificial intelligence proteome screening platform from the Toronto-based Cyclica.

The yearlong agreement will allow the German biotech to evaluate the mechanisms of action and safety profiles of a number of its small molecules in the discovery and early development stages, as well as explore any additional applications for its drugs.

Cyclica’s Ligand Express platform models interactions between small-molecule drugs and repositories of the human body’s protein structures to determine pharmacological profiles and potential side effects, including on- and off-target effects, and prioritize lead candidates.

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“A key part of our R&D strategy is to progress highly promising compounds as efficiently and rapidly as possible,” Friedrich Rippmann, Merck’s director of computational chemistry & biology, said in a statement.

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“Assessing new technologies is central to how we will advance our discovery programs, and artificial intelligence applications like Ligand Express will provide important insights to enhance how we think about target identification to support phenotypic screening and off-target profiling in general,” Rippmann added.

Cyclica recently signed a similar compound-screening agreement with Bayer, launching a multiphase collaboration to investigate off-target effects of small molecules and build predictive, in silico drug models.

“Current experimental protein screening approaches can take up to a year, making it virtually impossible to do this for multiple compounds,” said Cyclica President and CEO Naheed Kurji. “We see this as a specific opportunity for cloud-based and AI-augmented technologies to drive drug discovery more efficiently.”