Sön 26 maj / År 42 / Nr 1 2024

Structural insight provides for faster drug discovery

From contracted protein crystallization and structure determination services to advanced drug discovery. SARomics took an alternative route to the top – and can now reap the benefits of having a fully developed technological platform for structural biology, complete with drug discovery services, all in-house. And – as if that was not enough, the company has built everything largely without external funding.

SARomics has successfully created a hybrid platform for protein structure determination services and drug discovery projects respectively. By generating an initial and continuous income based on structural biology services, the company founders were able to venture into the world of drug discovery. Relying largely on targeted therapies and their portfolio of FastLane off-the-shelf protein structures, SARomics generates initial hits which are developed into early leads ready for further development by selected partners.

Life in the fast lane
SARomics is not a one-project company. Drug discovery is a risky process, and only a small number of projects actually make it to the clinical stage. By combining the company’s knowledge and experience in structure-based drug design with existing knowledge about validated drug targets, SARomics is successfully managing several different drug discovery projects.
“It is not our intent to keep projects beyond the first stages of pre-clinical development. Our expertise is best applied during the initial stages, and our entire platform is built to identify initial hits and early leads in a fast and cost-efficient way. The rest can be done by other companies and partners who are specialized in the later stages of pre-clinical as well as clinical development”, says Dr. Björn Walse, CEO and one of the founders of SARomics.

Several leads are pursued simultaneously
Clearly, further development – that is after the initial pre-clinical stages, of any drug discovery project will be done by one or several external partners. By applying this approach, SARomics can follow several leads simultaneously. Dr. Walse confirms this by revealing that currently, four different lead projects are pursued; three related to cancer treatment and one in the anti-infective area.
“We have identified early hits in all four projects”, he says. “The next stage is to identify early lead molecules, and after that our work is done within SARomics. It is a possibility, however, that we will consider the founding of subsidiaries in collaboration with strong partners in order to remain in charge of these projects to some extent. But as of yet, it is still too early to be decided”.

Providing structural insight
The market for early leads in drug development has increased significantly. According to Dr. Walse, this is largely connected to the cut-downs in Big Pharma’s research departments. This comes as no surprise, given that only ten per cent or less of the early leads actually reach the market after passing the clinical phase. So how can SARomics help?
Björn Walse explains that “SARomics provides structural insight by generating 3D structural information of drug molecules bound to their protein target. Using protein X-ray crystallography, we are able to provide the information needed in order to determine the interactions between drug molecules and protein targets”.

Drug discovery made faster
The new Max IV synchrotron in Lund will facilitate the development of structural biology to the next level. Using the world’s brightest light source, SARomics will be able to deliver structural insight that will speed up the drug discovery process like never before.
In conclusion, Dr. Walse underlines that “using 3D structural information is the fastest and most cost-efficient way to drug design today – and at the same time a step closer to the development of precision medicine”.