DOYLESTOWN, Pa. & NEW YORK—Lodo Therapeutics Corp. announced in August that the company had completed the acquisition of Conifer Point Pharmaceuticals. Lodo plans to integrate Conifer Point’s proprietary tools and deep expertise in computational structural biology and cheminformatics in order to enhance its artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) capabilities and expand its P4 Platform for the in-silico discovery of novel drug leads from biosynthetic gene clusters in microbial DNA.
“Interestingly, [myself] and CFO Don Marvin have known [Conifer Point] co-founder John Kulp, Jr. for over 15 years and have tracked the development of the technology over time for in-silico drug discovery and in AI/ML,” says Dr. Dale Pfost, chairman and CEO of Lodo. “We reconnected at Lodo, where Conifer Point’s technology seemed a natural fit. It complements our DNA-first natural product drug discovery technology by bridging the gap from the biosynthetic world of microbes to high-priority pharmaceutical industry drug targets by elucidating the binding characteristics of the microbial drug-like metabolites that bind these molecular targets.”
“The vision of being able to do more of our work in silico drove our first contacts with Conifer Point ... From our initial contacts in September 2019, we engaged in a series of increasingly enthusiastic joint sessions, culminating with our strategic planning sessions last winter. We were both sold on the merits of the acquisition at this point. This transaction then became the formal focus earlier this year. It’s great to reconnect with such talented people with great technology,” he continues.
Conifer Point’s proprietary Grand Canonical Monte Carlo Fragment Simulator creates an in-silico map of where—and with what relative affinity—molecules and their fragments bind to target proteins. It is among the industry’s highest-performing protein-fragment simulation software in terms of speed and accuracy, and is reportedly the only platform with the demonstrated ability to produce hundreds of thousands of accurate binding maps on an industrial scale. Associated software incorporates 3D molecular visualization and extensive capabilities for managing and searching the large binding data sets produced by the simulator. This will facilitate the ability of drug researchers to enumerate, select and prioritize potential leads in silico.
“The magic is when this modeling capability is brought to bear on natural product drugs that are either known from historical databases or imputed from modeling of biosynthetic gene clusters. In the first instance, the combination expands the number of programs for our platform by increasing the number of high-priority targets, taking the field of natural product drug discovery to the realm of de-novo, drug target-driven, natural product drug discovery for the first time,” Pfost points out. “It’s a first for the field, and one which expands Lodo’s reach to new targets that might not [have] previously been accessible.
“The next step is modeling in conjunction with biosynthetic gene cluster molecular predictions and SAR, as well as in the context of combinatorial SynBio. [This] is an exciting area with great promise for Lodo’s next-generation drug discovery approach.”
“Lodo acquired all of the assets of Conifer Point Pharmaceuticals, and is housing Conifer Point’s technology at its New York City-based facilities. John Kulp Jr., Ph.D., chief technology officer at Conifer Point and an inventor of its technology, has joined Lodo as vice president, Cheminformatics. Conifer Point founder and CEO, John Kulp III, Ph.D., is serving as a retained consultant to Lodo,” Pfost mentions. “Several other Conifer Point personnel have joined Lodo as employees or are working with us as retained consultants.”
Pfost noted that Lodo has planned for other targeted strategic acquisitions, and sure enough, the company announced on September 3 that it had also completed the acquisition of Hibiskus BioPharma, Inc. Financial details of the transactions were not disclosed.
In a related transaction, Lodo acquired exclusive worldwide rights from the University of California, Riverside (UCR) and Michigan State University to preclinical proteasome and immunoproteasome inhibitors developed by the co-founders of Hibiskus. Lodo says that these two transactions will enable the company to consolidate the proteasome inhibitor portfolio and related intellectual property, know-how and early-stage research.
The lead preclinical molecule, TIR-199—now known as LODO-141—is an irreversible and potent hybrid cyclic peptide proteasome inhibitor from the syrbactin natural product family. LODO-141 is structurally distinct from marketed proteasome inhibitors, retains activity against chemoresistance to these inhibitors and is highly selective, with a well-characterized mechanism of action.
“This is our second targeted transaction at Lodo and reflects our disciplined acquisition strategy based on the extensive experience of our senior team in executing value-creating transactions. We believe these novel proteasome inhibitors are an excellent fit for Lodo,” Pfost commented in a press release. “Early studies conducted at the NCI and elsewhere suggest that LODO-141 may have utility in treating solid tumors. We intend to assess its potential as a single agent and also in combination with cancer immunotherapy.”