Aiding drug discovery

Almirall and Iktos announce a research collaboration for new drug design

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BARCELONA, Spain & PARIS—Almirall S.A., a leading skin health-focused pharmaceutical company, and Iktos, a company specialized in artificial intelligence (AI) for novel drug design, recently announced an AI collaboration. The companies plan to use Iktos’ generative modeling AI technology to design novel optimized compounds to speed up the identification of promising drug candidates for undisclosed Almirall drug discovery programs.
“This partnership is an example of how we intend to explore the enormous possibilities offered by technology to find new molecules and to speed up clinical development,” said Dr. Bhushan Hardas, executive vice president of R&D and chief scientific officer of Almirall. “The health sector lags behind others in the digital world. Almirall wants to be at the forefront of innovation to develop holistic and transversal approaches. Artificial intelligence will provide Almirall a unique opportunity to combine our proficiency with the preciseness and agility to truly make a difference in patients’ lives.”
Iktos’ AI technology, which is based on deep generative models, reportedly helps to bring speed and efficiency to the drug discovery process. The AI automatically designs virtual novel molecules that have the desirable characteristics of a drug candidate. This tackles one of the 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 thrilled to initiate a new research collaboration with Almirall. This new collaboration is further testimony to the leadership position that Iktos has developed in the field of AI for de-novo drug design, in little more than two years of existence,” added Yann Gaston-Mathé, president and CEO of Iktos. “We are eager to demonstrate to our collaborators the power of Iktos technology to accelerate their research, and to get the opportunity to further improve by confronting our approach to a new use case, consistently with our strategy to prove our value in real-life projects.”
The collaboration with Almirall is just the newest AI partnership for Iktos. The company has announced several collaborations with large biopharmaceutical companies within the last year, including Merck KGaA, Servier Laboratories and Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Iktos has a generative modeling software as a service (SaaS) platform, Makya, currently available on the market. The company also intends to release its retro-synthesis SaaS platform, Spaya, as a beta version sometime soon.
As for other recent news from Almirall, the company has partnered up with Paratek Pharmaceuticals, Inc. under a license agreement to develop Seysara (sarecycline)—a first-in-class tetracycline-derived oral antibiotic for the treatment of moderate to severe non-nodular acne vulgaris—in China. Seysara is an oral tablet taken once daily, with or without food. It has shown significant reduction of inflammatory lesions as early as three weeks after the start of treatment, and is generally safe and well tolerated.
Under the terms of the agreement, Almirall will be responsible for development, registration and commercialization of the product in China, in exchange for royalties calculated as a percentage of net sales once the product is launched into the market. Seysara represents the first dermatology product of Almirall’s to join the company’s dermatology portfolio in China.
“At Almirall, we are convinced that the launch of Seysara in China will be a big step forward for many patients with acne in the country. Moderate to severe acne is a widespread issue in China, and Seysara will bring a new and innovative solution to these patients,” Peter Guenter, CEO of Almirall, noted in a press release.
Almirall expects Seysara to be submitted to the Chinese National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) in 2023. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Seysara in October 2018, and Almirall retains the U.S. commercialization rights for the medicine. In order to prove the efficiency and safety of the medicine in China, Almirall will conduct a Phase 3 and pharmacokinetics study within the Chinese population, which the company plans to start sometime this year.

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