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Tissue Chip, A.I. Companies Partner on Heart Drug Discovery

Heart check

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

7 Jan. 2018. A developer of chip devices emulating heart tissue and a medical analytics company using artificial intelligence are jointly discovering new drugs to treat aging heart muscles. Financial and intellectual property aspects of the agreement between Tara Biosystems Inc. in New York and Insilico Medicine in Rockville, Maryland were not disclosed.

Tara Biosystems creates microfluidic or lab-on-a-chip devices with samples of human heart tissue, as an alternative to preclinical testing with lab cultures or animals. The company’s tissue chip platform, called Biowire, is derived from precursor heart muscle cells transformed out of induced pluripotent, or adult, stem cells. Biowire chips connect functioning heart tissue samples to polymer wires that measure muscle contractions in heartbeats. The chips also measure electrical signals in the heart tissue. In addition, Biowire chips can be designed to reflect specific disease states, including disorders from environmental or genetic conditions, as well as reflecting a patient’s own heart cells.

Insilico Medicine identifies leads for new treatments from analyzing voluminous genomic, protein, and text databases with artificial intelligence or A.I. algorithms. The company’s main A.I. technology uses deep learning, a form of machine learning that makes it possible to discern underlying patterns in relationships, and build those relationships into knowledge bases applied to a number of disciplines. Much of Insilico’s recent work focuses on human aging, with the company’s analytics also predicting success of new drugs in clinical trials. Insilico offers as well a public online engine called aging.ai that analyzes demographic characteristics and 19 biomarkers from blood samples.

As reported in Science & Enterprise, Insilico Medicine is partnering with University of Copenhagen to identify new treatments for diseases associated with early aging. The university and Insilico are focusing on faulty DNA repair mechanisms that accelerate the aging process, and finding new molecules that repair DNA damage. The collaborators are specifically identifying molecules that stimulate the expression of genes for repairing faulty DNA underlying Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, as well as cardiovascular disorders.

The new collaboration is expected to combine testing with Tara Biosystems’ heart chips and Insilico Medicine’s analytical engine for drug discovery and risk assessment of new drugs to treat heart disorders of aging populations and heart disease in general. The companies say the partnership could take years off the time and reduce significant expense of conventional drug discovery.

While Tara Biosystems is located in New York, the company licenses technology and was founded in 2014 by researchers from University of Toronto, as well as MIT and Columbia University. In March 2016, Science & Enterprise reported on work by Milica Radisic at University of Toronto, one of the company’s scientific founders, who helped develop biocompatible fibers now used in the Biowire chips. Later work led to creating a flexible mesh material, which when seeded with cardiac cells, can form into a patch for fixing heart muscle damage. In tests with lab rats, the injected mesh restored some heart functions and helped grow new blood vessels.

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