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Combining AI and Automated Discovery Platform To Discover Compounds Against Viruses, Including Coronavirus

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Iktos, a company specialized in artificial intelligence (AI) for novel drug design and SRI International (SRI), a research center headquartered in Menlo Park, California, has announced that the companies have entered into a collaboration agreement designed to accelerate discovery and development of novel anti-viral therapies. Under the collaboration, Iktos’ generative modeling technology will be combined with SRI’s SynFini™, a fully automated end-to-end synthetic chemistry system, to design novel, optimized compounds and accelerate the identification of drug candidates to treat multiple viruses, including influenza and the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).

Iktos’ AI technology, based on deep generative models, aims to help bring speed and efficiency to the drug discovery process by automatically designing virtual novel molecules that have all of the desirable characteristics of a novel drug candidate. This could tackle one of the key challenges in drug design: rapid and iterative identification of molecules which simultaneously validate multiple bioactive attributes and drug-like criteria for clinical testing.

“We are eager to apply it [Iktos’ AI technology] to SRI’s endonuclease program, and hope our collaboration can make a difference and speed up the identification of promising new therapeutic options for the treatment of COVID-19,” said Yann Gaston-Mathé, co-founder and CEO of Iktos. “We are excited at the prospect of combining our automated compound design technology with SRI’s SynFini platform, and the potential this has to further accelerate drug discovery.”

SRI’s SynFini platform is designed to accelerate chemical discovery and development, and thereby bring new drugs to the clinic more quickly and affordably. The closed loop SynFini system automates the design, reaction screening and optimization (RSO), and production of target molecules. SynFini comprises three components that work seamlessly together: a software platform (SynRoute™), a reaction screening platform (SynJet™), and a multi-step flow chemistry automation and development platform (AutoSyn™).

SRI has an ongoing program focused on discovering drugs to block endonuclease enzymes that are common to many viruses. These enzymes are involved in viral replication and blocking of host resistance to infection. Sequence analysis of COVID-19 indicates that this virus has an endonuclease that it is genetically about 97 percent similar to the SARS virus. Recent studies show that blocking the SARS virus endonuclease inhibits the infection’s pathogenesis, leading to a 100 percent survival rate in preclinical models. This suggests that the COVID-19 endonuclease is a good therapeutic target.

“The SynFini system has the potential to dramatically expedite small molecule drug discovery,” said Nathan Collins, Ph.D., chief strategy officer of SRI’s Biosciences Division and head of the SynFini program. “We look forward to exploring how the integration of Iktos’ AI-driven generative molecule combined with SynFini supports the rapid and efficient discovery of new drugs to treat emerging infectious diseases.”

By combining platforms for the accelerated molecular design and automated production of target molecules with established high-throughput biology, Iktos and SRI hope to demonstrate a new paradigm in extremely rapid drug discovery against high-value pharmaceutical targets.