Parkinson’s Drug Discovery Collaboration Between Astrogen, Iktos to Leverage AI Platform

Image to signify drugs designed by artificial intelligence.
[Source: Yuuji/Getty Images]

Artificial intelligence drug design company Iktos, and South Korean clinical research biotech Astrogen announced today a collaboration with the goal of discovering small-molecule pre-clinical drug candidates for a specific, undisclosed, marker of Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Under the terms of the agreement, whose value was not disclosed, Iktos will apply its generative learning algorithms which seek to identify new molecular structures with the potential address the target in PD. Astrogen, which has a focus of the development of therapeutics for “intractable neurological diseases,” will provide in-vitro and in-vivo screening of lead compounds and pre-clinical compounds. While both companies will contribute to the identification of new small-molecule candidates, Astrgoen will lead the drug development process from the pre-clinical stages.

“Our objective is to expedite drug discovery and achieve time and cost efficiencies for our global collaborators by using Iktos’s proprietary AI platform and know-how,” noted Yann Gaston-Mathé, president and CEO of Paris-based Iktos in a press release. “We are confident that together we will be able to identify promising novel chemical matter for the treatment of intractable neurological diseases. Our strategy has always been to tackle challenging problems alongside our collaborators where we can demonstrate value generation for new and on-going drug discovery projects.”

Iktos, founded in 2016, is focused on the identification and development of novel drugs leveraging AI-aided drug design. It’s deep learning generative modeling, deployed either as professional services of a software-as-a-service (SaaS) called Makya, employs its partners’ own discovery and development data—along with publicly available datasets—to design and optimize small molecules in silico.

An early feather in the company’s cap came via a 2019 collaboration with Merck KGaA, across three of the German pharma company’s drug programs. Since then, it has inked further deals with Italian biotech Chiesi Group, which deployed the Makya software platform in late 2021 for use across numerous drug discovery programs; China-based Jiangsu Hengrui Pharmaceuticals; and the University of Dundee, Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) focused on the discovery of novel therapies for neglected diseases.

For Astrogen, deploying the Iktos technology is aimed at further accelerating the clinical-stage company’s program in PD, as looks to broaden its reach and become a leader in the development of drugs for neurological diseases. The company’s lead candidate in the pipeline is AST-001, currently in Phase II studies in South Korea as a treatment for autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The company saw Iktos as a good partner due to its earlier successes as a drug discovery partner for other biotech and pharmaceutical collaborators, according to JoonBeom Park, Astrogen’s director of business development.

“Iktos has successfully utilized their proprietary AI platform in multiple real world drug discovery projects,” Park noted in a prepared statement. “We are looking forward to this collaboration, as we believe that there is good chance to build up a mutually beneficial business model, by combining the strengths of biotech companies specialized in novel target identification and AI companies with their proprietary drug designing platform technology.”

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