TeraDiscoveries said today it will use its Inverse Design software platform to help Egenix design new drugs against cancer and autism. The value of the collaboration was not disclosed.

Egenix will provide funding and target data that TeraDiscoveries said it will apply toward identifying and designing inhibitors for unspecified cancer indications and autism. Egenix plans to develop the drugs through Phase II clinical trials, with TeraDiscoveries retaining a minority stake in the two drugs.

Egenix’s cancer therapeutic technology is designed to block production of cancer promoting proteins and promote their apoptosis through small-molecule drugs that inhibit the protein translation initiation factors eIF4E and eIF2a. The company licensed technology in 2007 to develop those inhibitors with Harvard Medical School Laboratory for Translational Research.

The company’s two lead compounds, 4EGI-1 and 1181, are designed to block the activity of of eIF4E and eIF2α, respectively. According to Egenix, the compounds have shown promise against multiple cancer cell lines, anti-tumor activity in animal models, upregulation of apoptotic and tumor suppressor proteins, and downregulation of oncogenes including cyclin D1, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF), and c-myc

Egenix considers eIF4E and eIF2α to be compelling cancer therapeutic targets because both translation initiation factors regulate proteins that mediate multiple processes required for cancer growth and metastasis. Overexpression of eIF4E and eIF2α occurs frequently in multiple human cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, melanoma, and cancers of the colon, lung and breast.

Aberrant protein translation driven by eIF4E is implicated not only in cancer but in neurological diseases that include Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Inverse Design runs computational models to quickly scan a chemical space to find the strongest inhibitors of a specific biological target—inhibitors that also have good druggable properties and are expected to have low toxic side effects. Inverse Design includes filters for key drug properties such as toxic side-effect risk assessment, off-target effects assessment, synthesizability, solubility, and freedom to operate assessment.

Through specialized filtering, the platform can also can assess if a molecule crosses the blood-brain barrier.

Companies can use Inverse Design as a service to design, discover, or optimize new small molecule or peptide drugs, by running the platform via the Windows Azure cloud or a private cloud. 

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