Cloud Pharmaceuticals raising $20M for its “in silico” approach to drug development

We’re all plenty familiar with in-vivo and in-vitro, but Cloud Pharmaceuticals is taking the “in-silico“ approach to drug development. Its “inverse design” platform uses cloud supercomputing to cherry pick and formulate molecules that will work as new medications – cutting out much of the early lab expenses by conducting the earliest drug discovery processes virtually. The Research Triangle […]

We’re all plenty familiar with in-vivo and in-vitro, but Cloud Pharmaceuticals is taking the “in-silico approach to drug development. Its “inverse design” platform uses cloud supercomputing to cherry pick and formulate molecules that will work as new medications – cutting out much of the early lab expenses by conducting the earliest drug discovery processes virtually.

The Research Triangle Park company is closing out a $2 million Series A round from angel investors, CEO Ed Addison said, and has already begun raising the first tranche of a $20 million Series B round.

There are countless permutations and combinations of molecules out there; according to Addison, there’s an estimated 10^65 stable molecules with a molecular weight below 850. One would wager that at least a few of these molecules could work as new drugs that could bind to cellular proteins.

The company uses cloud technology and high-performance computing to narrow down “which of all possible molecules will be the best drug candidates,” Addison said.

But it’s both difficult and prohibitively expensive to synthesize these molecules and test them through trial and error – so Cloud Pharmaceuticals does the early grunt work virtually.

For a specific protein target, the company computationally designs small molecules and peptides that bind strongly to a target protein. It evaluates toxicity, synthetability, solubility and stability properties of the cloud-bound chemical.

From that point, the company assays, develops expression profiles and Pk models, and optimizes the drug candidates – then reaches out to partners to develop the drugs through IND and the clinic.

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A Deep-dive Into Specialty Pharma

A specialty drug is a class of prescription medications used to treat complex, chronic or rare medical conditions. Although this classification was originally intended to define the treatment of rare, also termed “orphan” diseases, affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the US, more recently, specialty drugs have emerged as the cornerstone of treatment for chronic and complex diseases such as cancer, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.

The company’s business model is rather unique, Addison said – it partners with big pharma, other biotechs and even the government to identify disease targets that need new therapies. Since it’s working at the earliest stage, Cloud Pharmaceuticals takes a small equity stake and a small royalty fee in the drugs it has designed, and then moves on to the next project.

The company got off the ground in 2012; it’s technology came out of Duke University. Cloud’s platform has a highly accurate way of predicting ligand binding and can perform predictive modeling for the drugs.

There have been many failed players in the inverse drug design space, Addison said, but he’s confident that Cloud Pharmaceuticals’ robust platform will help the company succeed at in-silico drug design and development.

“Moore’s Law and the Cloud made inverse design feasible only recently,” Addison said.