With “Drug and Enzyme Discovery” the Styrian start-up Innophore has already gained attention outside the European borders in recent years. Innophore has now also made its knowledge available to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which has since involved the young company as a research partner in the fight against coronavirus.
Events have been unfolding rapidly in the last three days, said Dr. Christian Gruber, Managing Director of the 11-strong start-up. On our own initiative, we took action within a few hours, started to look for one of the key enzymes of this class of viruses in the previously published genome of the Corona virus 2019-nCoV and found it. Based on this we used our technology to find known agents approved to fight other viruses that could theoretically be used to fight the Corona virus. In the research community this method is known as drug repurposing or drug repositioning – the attempt to find other, already approved drugs and use them for new pharmaceutical purposes. Once we published our research findings, they took on life of their own and soon afterwards, I was contacted by a manager working for a large pharmaceutical company in Beijing.
Computer-based algorithms save valuable research time
Since then the team has been working on suggestions for possible drugs to fight the virus together with a group of select bioinformaticians working for a leading pharmaceutical company in Beijing as well as the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This usually happens with elaborate tests in chemistry laboratories. However, those require time. Time we don’t have in the case of this virus. This is where our biggest advantage plays a role: “We work with our proprietary Catalaphore® platform that uses computer algorithms to search for new enzymes and agents to be used in drugs – and it does it much faster than conventional laboratories,” Gruber reports. The next few weeks will show whether or not the agent found and recommended by Innophore will yield the desired effect in the fight against the virus.
Innophore was founded in 2017 as a spin-off of the Karl-Franzens University and the Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (acib) by Dr. Christian Gruber, Dr. Georg Steinkeller and the University Professor Dr. Karl Gruber. The biotechnology start-up developed the Catalaphore® platform, a search engine that uses artificial intelligence and big data to quickly and cost-efficiently find enzymes and agents for the pharmaceutical industry and industrial processes. Supported by EOSS Industries as a strategic investor the company established an international customer base including big players such as Merck and Henkel.