Nuclera awarded a Biomedical Catalyst Grant from Innovate UK with AI partner DeepMirror
December 6, 2023
Nuclera has successfully secured an Innovate UK Biomedical Catalyst grant in collaboration with DeepMirror. This grant will enable us to perform AI-enabled drug discovery using the eProtein Discovery™ system and DNA-encoded libraries with the aim of revolutionizing the early drug discovery phases for difficult-to-express proteins. This would dramatically accelerate the development of new medicines against debilitating diseases such as cancer, having huge benefits for human health and the UK economy.
The Biomedical Catalyst is Innovate UK’s flagship grant which aims to enable businesses to test and develop innovative health and care solutions across life sciences. Nuclera was awarded it alongside partner DeepMirror – a firm which builds intuitive AI software that assists researchers in optimizing molecules and (bio-)processes by suggesting creative and optimal solutions, dramatically reducing the number of necessary experiments by up to 100x.
Nuclera’s eProtein Discovery™ system enables rapid optimization and expression of difficult to express drug targets. The benchtop system miniaturizes the typical protein expression process, allowing scientists to automate construct screening to inform off-platform protein scale-up, delivering reliable proteins in-hand (µg-mg amounts) in less than 48 hours.
Recently, DNA-encoded small molecule libraries (DELs) have attracted attention due to their ability to enable the screening of trillions of potential drugs in just one simple experiment. But while they would be ideal for discovering new drugs, using DELs successfully is challenging as they typically generate many potential drug candidates with no easy way of developing them into a drug safe for human treatment. DeepMirror’s AI will assist in this by firstly identifying patterns in these large datasets and secondly by making use of the huge amount of information to generate models that can predict affinity to a target using libraries that do contain drug-like molecules.
The focus of drug targets in this grant will be protein kinases, which are involved in almost all bodily functions, as changes in their activity can give rise to cancer and other diseases. But developing drugs against kinases has proved to be difficult, meaning only a few drugs which target them exist. Working alongside AI models, the eProtein Discovery™ system will work to combat this challenge as it enables the miniaturization and parallelization of protein synthesis and drug screening, enabling teams to test and screen multiple cross-reactive kinases in parallel. While the focus of the grant work will be on protein kinases, due to their difficulty to obtain and their importance to human health, the eProtein Discovery™ system has the capacity to explore a wide array of protein targets beyond protein kinases. This adaptable technology holds promise for investigating diverse biological pathways and unlocking protein bottlenecks in biological research.
Using the Biomedical Catalyst grant worth around £270,000, combining our technology with DeepMirror’s enables a synergistic loop which would screen many different proteins in parallel, and then build AI models to select small molecules with low predicted cross-reactivity to test in the next screen, thus rapidly converging to the most promising small molecule leads. This in turn can revolutionize the early phases of drug discovery for the treatment of diseases.