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Cloud Pharma, Univ of Florida Partner on Cancer Drug Design

DNA analytics illustration

(PublicDomainPictures, Pixabay)

17 March 2017. Cloud Pharmaceuticals, a company designing drug compounds with computer-based tools, and University of Florida’s medical school are collaborating on the design of new drugs limiting an enzyme implicated in the proliferation of cancer cells. Financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed.

The agreement calls for the university’s Department of Medicine and Cloud Pharma to design new types of compounds that block the actions of the MTH1 protein, an enzyme that makes it possible for oxidized components of nucleic acids to infiltrate DNA, causing mismatched DNA elements and mutations. Left unchecked, MTH1 promotes cancer cell proliferation, and is implicated in a number of solid-tumor cancers, including pancreatic, ovarian, breast, and colon cancer.

MTH1 is considered a promising target for cancer drugs, since limiting the actions of this enzyme can damage the DNA of the cancer cells and lead to their death. In addition, MTH1 is not considered an essential protein for normal cell functions, thus blocking its actions would have fewer side effects. A possible role for MTH1-limiting drugs, says Cloud Pharma, would be as boosters for chemotherapy.

Cloud Pharma, in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, provides computational drug design tools, harnessing computer power in the cloud. The company offers high-speed screening of small molecule — low molecular weight — compounds with algorithms that quickly compute the binding affinity of targeted molecules with a given protein. The process that Cloud Pharma says combines quantum chemistry and molecular mechanics offers a deeper understanding of interactions between binding molecules and proteins.

University of Florida is conducting research on MTH1 inhibitors, including synthesis and preclinical studies. The university and Cloud Pharma plan to share their intellectual property and jointly fund 10 research projects to design new types of MTH1 inhibitor drugs. The partners then plan to engage a cancer drug developer to take the drug candidates through final preclinical studies and clinical trials.

“Designing new drugs that bind to a specified protein target requires finding the best molecule in a vast virtual chemical space,” says Cloud Pharma CEO Ed Addison in a company statement. “The process results in the ability to identify novel drug candidates that exhibit low probability of toxic side effects, high freedom to operate, and high probability of success.”

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