Entelos, Novartis apply virtual patient technology to R&D

Entelos and Novartis Pharma to “conduct research in multiple disease areas.”

Jeffrey Bouley
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FOSTER CITY, Calif.—Entelos Inc. is working with Novartis Pharma AG for the first time on a major project, in a deal announced in late August. Novartis remains tight-lipped for now on the nature of the research, and as far as the drug target goals of the collabora­tion, the two companies will say only that it is to "conduct research in multiple disease areas." Financial details are also not being released at this time.
The deal is important to Entelos because it is the first time the company has had an opportunity to work with Novartis in any detailed way from the "ground level up," says James Karis, CEO of Entelos. He also notes that Novartis' drug discovery and development work is "innovation driven", which is exciting for him and his team.
Under terms of the agreement, Novartis will provide research and development funding and Entelos will conduct biosimula­tion research using its PhysioLab platforms that predict the effects of drugs using "vir­tual patients." This approach will be used by Novartis to support target evaluation, compound optimization, and Phase III clini­cal trial design.
Entelos, a life sciences company that cre­ates computer models of human physiology designed to reduce the risk, time, and cost of drug discovery and development, provides scientific expertise in chronic disease areas such as asthma, obesity, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, and com­plex physiological processes such as anemia, cholesterol metabolism and skin sensitization. Although he couldn't say which disease areas his company will focus on for the Novartis deal, Karis did note that Entelos isn't plowing any new ground for Novartis.
"We do make custom disease models for some companies, but that's not the case here," Karis says. "It will definitely be in one or more of the areas that we spe­cialize in. I can also confirm that the deal will be related not just to research but also development of possible therapeutics."
In addition to bringing in a new big pharma partner, the Novartis deal is also important to Entelos—and to the drug discovery commu­nity as a whole—because it adds further validation to the concept of using in silico models to improve drug discovery efforts.
"It demonstrates something about Novartis and generally what's happening in the research and development side of pharma companies, from big pharma on down," Karis says. "These compa­nies, including Novartis, are real­ly looking at how modeling and simulation tools can help them be more precise in their work, be faster and be more cost-effective. It really shows that the profession is truly beginning to adopt these technologies as part of the stan­dard discovery and development toolset."
He adds that Novartis has expressed enough interest in Entelos' modeling expertise that he expects this deal to simply be the beginning of a longer-term relationship and not just a one-shot deal. "This isn't just an experiment," Karis insists, "it's a commitment to a new way of doing things."

Jeffrey Bouley

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