CTFH latest to partner with Insilico in AI discovery deal

In the latest addition to a growing roster of industry collaborations, AI company Insilico has partnered with CTFH to discover and develop two programs for triple-negative breast cancer.

Insilico Medicine Inc. is eligible to receive up to $200 million from Jiangsu Chia Tai Fenghai Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. (CTFH), including an upfront payment, milestones and royalties. Details were not disclosed. The partnership adds to a balance sheet bolstered by Insilico’s $37 million series B round in September led by Qiming Venture Partners.

Under what Insilico CEO Alex Zhavoronkov called his company’s first “big” China deal, Insilico will generate molecules using its AI-based drug discovery platform, including compounds against what the partners said were difficult or previously undruggable targets. CTFH will then develop the compounds.

Last month, Insilico and WuXi AppTec Co. Ltd. (Shanghai:603259; HKEX:2359) published a Nature Biotechnology study demonstrating Insilico’s generative tensorial reinforcement learning (GENTRL) method could identify multiple candidates for orphan targets with no known crystal structures in 21 days (see “Insilico, WuXi AppTec Unveil One Piece of Hit-generating AI Pipeline”).

Zhavoronkov told BioCentury that the company needs to use a much more sophisticated AI pipeline for its collaboration with CTFH. The GENTRL algorithm is one of about 800 modules in its automated chemical design pipeline.

The Nature Biotechnology study was structured around a relatively easy target with lots of data available, he said, adding that the “CTFH project is aimed at first-in-class medicines.”

“We do have other collaborations with pharma in cancer but on very different targets and pathways that will not be curative in triple-negative breast by themselves,” Zhavoronkov said. In September 2016, Insilico partnered with ChemDiv Inc. to develop compound libraries targeting various cancers, including breast invasive carcinoma.

Insilico has partnered with at least two other companies this year, including a deal with Elevian Inc. to discover small molecules targeting growth differentiation factor 11 (GDF11) pathway for age-related diseases and another with Tara Biosystems Inc. to develop new compounds for cardiac disease and diseases associated with cardiac muscle aging (see “Elevian, AI Company Insilico Partner”).

CTFH is a joint venture of CP Pharmaceutical Group and Jiangsu Agriculture Reclamation Group. The company, which markets therapies for indications including cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, respiratory and infectious diseases, declined an interview request.

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