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French artificial intelligence (AI) startup Iktos and drug discovery firm Facio Therapies have announced they are collaborating to design treatment for the skeletal muscle wasting condition facioscapulohumeral dystrophy (FSHD).
Under the agreement, Iktos will apply its de novo ligand and structure-based generative modelling AI technologies in one of Facio’s drug discovery programmes.
The technology is aimed to expedite the identification of potential pre-clinical candidates and identify additional novel chemical matter with suitable properties.
Iktos’s AI technology helps to bring new insights and directions into the drug discovery process by automatically designing virtual novel molecules with the characteristics of a successful drug molecule.
This approach solves one of the key challenges in drug design: rapid identification of molecules that simultaneously satisfy multiple parameters, such as potency, selectivity, safety, and additional project-specific properties.
WHY IT MATTERS
FSHD affects the lives of more than 800,000 people worldwide. The progressive disease causes a loss of muscle strength, leading to pain, fatigue, and often social isolation. The course of the disease is unpredictable and around 20% of people with FSHD end up in a wheelchair.
Currently, no approved therapy for FSHD is available other than forms of temporary symptomatic relief.
To maximise the chance of developing a therapy for FHSD, Facio is bringing together technology platforms and expertise in a global network to create multiple innovation synergies.
THE LARGER CONTEXT
Pharma and tech companies are increasingly working together on the expensive and time-consuming process of drug discovery.
Last year Iktos announced a collaboration agreement with Germany science and technology multinational Merck KGaA to facilitate the design of an undisclosed drug discovery programme. Iktos has also partnered with Spanish skin-focused pharma firm Almirall and US pharma giant Pfizer.
Meanwhile in the US, Silicon Valley giant NVIDIA is teaming up with pharma company AstraZeneca and the University of Florida on new AI research projects aimed at boosting drug discovery and patient care.
ON THE RECORD
Joris De Maeyer, CEO of Facio Therapies, said: “We are very pleased to welcome Iktos to our growing network of partnerships. Their capabilities complement our existing R&D collaborations, including our long-standing and successful partnership with Evotec, to support the growth of our FSHD portfolio.”
Yann Gaston-Mathé, President and CEO of Iktos, said: “We are proud to join forces with Facio with the aim to meet the urgent medical needs of the FSHD community. Pleased to have earned Facio’s trust, we are confident that together with Facio and their established R&D partners, we will be able to identify promising novel chemical matter and solve complex multiparametric optimisation problems.
“The feedback from Facio’s research team will be highly valuable as we improve our product offerings. Our strategy has always been to tackle challenging problems alongside our collaborators where we can demonstrate value generation for new and on-going drug discovery projects”.