SUNNYVALE, Calif.—Freeslate Inc. and the Center for Intelligent Research in Crystal Engineering (CIRCE), a contract research organization that focuses on predictive crystallization, have struck a partnership in which they hope to address some of the solid state problems faced by the pharmaceutical industry by combining Freeslate’s high-throughput screening (HTS) expertise with CIRCE’s predictive modeling.
“Our virtual technologies are the ideal tools to combine with experimental high-throughput approaches in order to save resources without reducing efficiency,” Rafel Prohens, scientific director of CIRCE, commented in a statement.
Under this partnership, Steve Crouse, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Freeslate, says CIRCE will work with a customer around their specific project, running their algorithm to identify a promising experimental space, and then Freeslate would run the experiments needed to identify “the appropriate conditions to achieve the form or solubility the customer’s interested in.”
This is the first time the companies have worked together, and he says the partnership came about as a result of interest from a customer working with CIRCE.
“They had gone through the prediction work with them but then after, they went back to verify,” Crouse tells DDNews. “Because they could only run a few experiments—because the work was being done manually—they didn’t get the hit they were looking for, and the expectation was that if they broadened the number of experiments by taking a high-throughput approach, that likely the power of the predicability of algorithms that CIRCE has would have a bigger impact, meaning they’d identify the forms or solubility that they were trying to get to.”
Among the biggest challenges faced in the pharmaceutical industry these days is solubility, according to Crouse.
“As development has continued, the low-hanging fruit of molecules that have the right therapeutic performance and are easy to manufacture and work with have been picked, and so what remains are molecules that have high potency and target the appropriate therapeutic activity, but are more challenging to work with from a manufacturing perspective, so they’re maybe insoluble and require different approaches to allow for those molecules to be stable and soluble sufficiently to have the correct potency,” he explains. “So there’s a range of approaches customers are taking, from co-crystallization studies to more targeted, predictive solutions like what CIRCE is putting forward, in order to identify the conditions that lead to a formulation for those molecules that allows for both stability and solubility.”
The companies’ technological approaches have them well-equipped to address the solid state challenges in the industry. CIRCE has licensed and developed several technologies related to predictive modeling in crystallization and polymorphs, including Virtual Cocrystal Screening, which predicts which coformers will cocrystallize with a higher probability with a specific molecule, and Virtual Polymorph Screening, which predicts the existence of new polymorphs for a given organic compound. (Prof. Chris Hunter of the department of chemistry at the University of Cambridge developed the former, with CIRCE as co-developer, and Prof. Juan Novoa of the Molecular Material Structure Group at the University of Barcelona developed the latter.)
For its part, Freeslate’s CM Protégé PharmD and Core Module 3 Preformulation Systems can automate polymorph, co-crystal and solubility screens and evaluate up to 384 crystallization conditions per run, screening more experiments with less material.
“So by narrowing in on the correct design space using the CIRCE technology, Freeslate can rapidly identify the specific reaction conditions that allow for the customer to overcome the solubility challenges, for example, that they’re trying to understand,” he adds.
Crouse says this partnership will have a one-year term to begin with, noting that continuation will be dependent on customer interest.
“We are constantly looking for ways to offer greater value to our customers,” said John S. Senaldi, president and CEO of Freeslate. “This partnership is a great opportunity to combine two advanced research techniques to attack the most difficult solid state challenges.”