AI-powered cancer cell simulations will be used to identify novel disease positioning strategies in Cancer Research UK’s latest biotech partnership

Published date:
January 5 2023

Cancer Research Horizons, the innovation engine at the core of the world’s largest private funder of cancer research, Cancer Research UK, has today (Thursday 5th) announced that it is partnering with Turbine*, a tech-enabled biotech leveraging its proprietary Simulated Cell™ platform to solve complex diseases.

The partnership will utilise Turbine’s Simulated Cells™ platform and expertise to identify target patient populations who could benefit from CDC7** inhibitor therapy with Cancer Research Horizons’ lead compound CRT’2199.

CRT’2199 originates from Cancer Research Horizons’ Therapeutic Innovation***. CDC7 is a protein which plays a vital role in the regulation of cell division in normal cells. However, dysregulation of CDC7 can lead to the formation of cancer cells, and overexpression of this protein is correlated with poor clinical prognosis in diverse cancers of significant unmet patient need.

Despite its role in the progression and outcome in many cancers, no CDC7 inhibitors have progressed to Phase III trials, and a clear picture is lacking on what types of cancer could be effectively and safely treated by inhibiting CDC7.

The partnership aims to change this. Using Turbine’s AI powered-simulation approach, Turbine and Cancer Research Horizons will inhibit CDC7 in digital cancer cells that represent different patient populations, in order to determine which cancer types and patient populations are most likely to respond to treatment with CRT’2199.

Turbine will receive a revenue share of Cancer Research Horizon’s future revenues from the CDC7 inhibitor program upon successful commercialisation in exchange for identifying and validating a disease positioning strategy.

Turbine’s Simulated Cell™ technology uses machine learning to train digital versions of cancer cells to behave in the same way that real cancer cells would, enabling simulations to show how cancer cells react to different triggers, such as transcriptomic changes and anticancer drugs****. Predictions based on this biological understanding provide invaluable insights at any point of the drug discovery and development process and can guide subsequent real-life experiments that increase the likelihood of success for a project.

Multiple companies have relied on Simulated Cells to inform their pipeline decision-making, including Bayer and two top-20 pharma companies that have leveraged the technology to generate multiple predictions that are currently in clinical validation.

Tony Hickson, Chief Business Officer for Cancer Research UK and Cancer Research Horizons said: “We know that CDC7 inhibitors hold enormous potential as a class of anti-cancer therapeutics, but the problem so far has been finding the right patients who could benefit from them.

"This is why we are excited to be partnering with Turbine to develop novel patient selection strategies for our CDC7 inhibitor compounds. Bolstered by Turbine's unique capabilities, we hope to gain novel insights into the activity of these drug candidates, bringing closer the day when we could see them reach the clinic to benefit patients who need them."

“Turbine’s technology provides a unique opportunity to gather insights into cancer cell behaviour at a scale and speed which isn’t possible to achieve in a traditional drug discovery setting,” said Dr Daniel Veres, Chief Science Officer and Co-founder, Turbine. “We’re looking forward to working with Cancer Research Horizons to identify suitable patient populations for its CDC7 inhibitors and accelerate their clinical development, in the name of hopefully bringing important new therapeutic options to patients that need them as quickly as possible.”

Notes to editor

*Turbine is a Budapest-based biotech company that leverages computational simulations to solve complex questions in oncology. Turbine recently raised EUR20M in Series A funding to expand its offering.

**Cell Division Cycle 7-related Kinase. CDC7 is an enzyme in humans that is encoded by the CDC7 gene. It is critical for the regulation of the cell cycle at the point of chromosomal DNA replication. In cancer, overexpression of the CDC7 gene is often associated with poor clinical outcomes.

***https://www.cancerresearchhorizons.com/licensing-opportunities/small-molecule-cdc7-inhibitors

****These hypotheses are then validated using conventional methods.

About Cancer Research Horizons

Cancer Research Horizons is the innovation engine of Cancer Research UK – the world's largest charitable funder of cancer research. We bring together world-leading minds, bold ideas and the right partners to bridge the gap between academic research and taking drugs to market. We focus on the tougher, more profound ideas that can lead to true innovation, translating them into effective treatments and diagnostics for cancer patients. To date, we've played an instrumental role in forming over 60 spin-out companies. We've helped bring 11 cancer drugs to market, borne out of Cancer Research UK's pioneering research. Through these drugs, we have enabled in excess of 6 million courses of treatment for cancer patients across the world. With access to Cancer Research UK's network of 4000 exceptional researchers, and £300+ million of annual research spend, we're a powerful partner in the fight to conquer cancer.

By uniting our commercial partnerships and therapeutic innovation capabilities, Cancer Research Horizons is uniquely placed to support translational funding, licensing and collaboration, spinout creation, and offer a full spectrum of drug discovery and clinical capabilities. Every penny we make goes back into funding the next bold steps, to help bring forward the day when all cancers are conquered.

About Turbine AI

Based in London, UK, with offices in Budapest, Hungary and Cambridge, UK, Turbine was founded in 2016 by Kristof Szalay, PhD, Daniel Veres, MD, PhD, Szabolcs Nagy and Ivan Fekete, MD. The team’s vision is to overcome the current limitations in identifying oncology treatments with true patient benefit by combining molecular biology and artificial intelligence (AI).

Simulations have already been validated from target discovery to patient stratification and life cycle management through Turbine’s proprietary pipeline and collaborations with multiple big pharma companies and research institutes, like Bayer and Cancer Research Horizons. Turbine’s latest investment round (Series A) was closed in 2022, co-led by MSD (Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway NJ, USA) Global Health Innovation Fund and Mercia Asset Management. Delin Ventures, Day One Capital, Accel, Atlantic Labs, XTX Ventures, o2h Ventures and Boston Millenia Partners.

Turbine’s Simulated Cell™ technology leverages artificial intelligence to build a constantly evolving, predictive simulation of cellular signalling. The virtual cells are used for in silico experiments having never been run in the lab, capturing patient biology better than available experimental models and testing more drug-like effects than current high throughput screening approaches. Validating the uncovered mechanisms and using the resulting data as feedback further improves and widens the model’s predictive prowess. This improves the likelihood of success for truly novel therapies and allows existing assets to be optimally targeted to ideal responder patients.

Turbine is now leveraging the Simulated Cell platform to develop its own stream of programs; expanding from an early focus on overcoming resistance to DNA Damage Response (DDR) inhibitors, the company is pursuing multiple high unmet oncology needs. Turbine is also working with partners to extend its pipeline to various modalities and cancer mechanisms.

For more information, visit www.turbine.ai

Contacts

Cancer Research UK
Ellie Bennett
T: +4420 3469 5370, or out of hours, 07884466868
E: [email protected]