EMERYVILLE, Calif.—Santen Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of specialty ophthalmology company Santen Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., and twoXAR Inc., an artificial intelligence-driven biopharmaceutical company, recently announced that the two companies have entered into a strategic research collaboration focused on the identification of new drug candidates for glaucoma.
“We are pleased to have established this strategic collaboration with twoXAR which aims to deliver new treatment options for the millions of people living with glaucoma globally,” said Dr. Naveed Shams, senior corporate officer, chief scientific officer and head of global research and development at Santen. “By leveraging twoXAR’s proprietary computational discovery platform to identify novel targets in areas of glaucoma, Santen further strengthens our R&D capabilities while expanding our pipeline of innovative therapeutic opportunities that help fulfill the unmet medical needs in ophthalmology.”
As a specialty company dedicated to the ophthalmic field, Santen carries out research, development, marketing and sales of pharmaceuticals. It is the market leader in Japan for prescription ophthalmic pharmaceuticals and sells products in over 50 countries. Santen aims to contribute to society by supplying valuable products and services to satisfy unmet medical needs.
twoXAR will apply its proprietary computational platform to discover, screen and prioritize novel drug candidates with potential application in ocular indications, with a specific focus on glaucoma. Santen will have the exclusive right to develop and commercialize drug candidates arising from the collaboration.
“This collaboration is an exciting example that demonstrates how software-driven approaches can lead the discovery of new drugs rather than simply supporting existing hypotheses,” remarked Andrew A. Radin, co-founder and CEO of twoXAR. “The combination of twoXAR’s unique capabilities in artificial intelligence-driven drug discovery with Santen’s experience in ophthalmic product development and commercialization provides a foundation upon which we can rapidly discover and develop new therapeutic candidates to treat glaucoma and bring better treatment options to the millions of people living with this disease.”
What distinguishes this collaboration from other attempts at computation drug research and development is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) rather than molecular modeling. Molecular modeling begins with a hypothesis to be tested, while AI algorithms examine a complex weave of data points to suggest possible treatment options. twoXAR’s platform has begun work examining more than 100,000 molecules and filtering out non-relevant data, leading to new potential therapies.
“Through advances in AI, software-driven drug discovery approaches such as twoXAR’s are proving that they can be more than a complementary service to biopharma R&D organizations. Unlike other software-driven approaches, we are focused on identifying promising drug candidates, de-risking the opportunities through preclinical studies and progressing drug candidates to the clinic through industry and investor partnerships,” says Radin.
Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve, and it is the leading cause of blindness in people over 60 and the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. It usually happens when fluid builds up in the front part of the eye, increasing pressure and damaging the nerve. Ophthalmologists use a variety of treatment modalities to address glaucoma in its various forms, including pharmaceuticals, laser procedures and incisional surgical interventions, but medications generally are the first and most common option.
For decades, ophthalmologists have used prescription ocular hypotensive compounds to treat glaucoma and ocular hypertension. These medications aim to lower elevated intraocular pressure, one of the most common and significant risk factors for glaucoma’s progression. According to Santen, in 2010, 60.5 million people globally were living with glaucoma. Given the aging of the world’s population, the number of people living with glaucoma may increase to nearly 80 million by 2020.