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Start-Up, Univ. Lab Partner on Computational Drug Discovery

Big data graphic

(DARPA, Wikimedia Commons)

25 May 2016. A two-year old company developing algorithms for drug discovery is collaborating with University of Chicago medical school to identify candidates to prevent atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Financial aspects of the agreement between twoXAR Inc. in Palo Alto, California and the lab of Yun Fang at University of Chicago were not disclosed.

Fang studies blood vessel health, particularly the role of non-coding RNA — molecules from genes that do not express proteins — in development of cardiovascular diseases. Atherosclerosis occurs when deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium and other substances build up in the inner lining of larger arteries. This buildup is called plaque, which can restrict blood flow or detach from the artery wall to form blood clots.

TwoXAR develops algorithms from molecular models that harness computer power to identify promising treatment candidates, a process the company says takes minutes instead of years. The company’s technology starts with early lab data from the researchers, and identifies disease signals from those data that go into development of a mathematical model for the disease. TwoXAR then use the model to query public and proprietary databases to identify and rank drug candidates, often from unanticipated sources or connections, and at a small fraction of the time.

Fang’s lab regularly uses bioinformatics and engineering tools in its work. In this case, Fang and colleagues are treating cultured cells that line the inside of blood vessels with tumor necrosis factor alpha, a signaling protein associated with cell death, then testing candidates in lab and animal models. The Chicago researchers plan to apply models and algorithms from twoXar to their data to evaluate and rank candidates the lab already identified.

The higher-ranked candidates are expected to be evaluated further in preclinical studies. “Better medicines that not only address the symptoms of atherosclerosis,” says Fang in a twoXar statement, “but help prevent it all together, represents an important opportunity to help millions of people around the world who suffer from the health effects of arterial plaque buildup.”

TwoXAR’s founders are both named Andrew Radin — twoXAR stands for “two times Andrew Radin.” Andrew A. Radin is the company’s CEO who developed the algorithms, while Andrew R. Radin is the chief business officer. The two Andrew Radins connected after Andrew R discovered Andrew A purchased the domain name The two Andrews founded TwoXar in 2014, and took part in at Stanford University’s StartX accelerator program; Andrew A. has a masters degree from Stanford.

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