This Biotech Startup Aims To Speed Up Drug Testing On Animals

WWhen developing new treatments for diseases, biotech researchers are often limited to two time-consuming steps: first, screening thousands of drug candidates in test tubes, and second, taking the best candidates and testing them on multiple animals to make sure they are safe and effective. Combined, these steps can be slow and expensive.

Today, a startup called Gordian Biotechnology debuts technology that could make this process better for both animals and humans. The San Francisco-based company has developed a new animal screening platform that allows multiple gene therapies to be tested at the same time on just one animal. Instead of giving gene therapy to an animal and affecting an entire area of ​​its body, Gordian’s innovation enables him to test a drug within a single cell. This means that a single mouse can support the evaluation of hundreds of potential new gene therapies in a way that is faster and affects fewer animals with less risk of harm.

“We have a platform that allows us to parallel the most difficult part of the drug discovery process, which is the animal testing process,” said Francisco Leport, CEO of Gordian. Forbes.

Leport, 38, co-founded Gordian in 2018 with Martin Borsch Jensen, 38, and named the company after the legendary impossible-to-untie knot that Alexander the Great untied by cutting it in half. The two met at a Russian bakery where a conversation about age-related diseases evolved into creating a company to combat them. Their idea was to develop a drug discovery method that focused on how someone’s age increases their risk of developing the disease, something they said is often overlooked. They realized that the key to tackling this problem was new advances in gene therapies, which led them to find ways to test drugs in animals more efficiently. The company has raised $60 million so far from backers such as Founders Fund, Gigafund, and Horizons Ventures and is valued at $170 million, according to Pitchbook.

Gordian’s platform could represent a leap forward in drug screening. First, it allows researchers to skip the time-consuming process of screening drugs in the laboratory. Second, it enables scientists to more cost-effectively use animals that are a better alternative to humans because of similarities in basic disease biology. Example: Horses can develop osteoarthritis as they age, just like humans. This makes it a good testing ground for arthritis medications. But horses are expensive, especially if they are used to test just one drug. Using Gordian’s technique, Leport estimates that researchers could explore the effects of up to 60 different gene therapies. On every joint of the horse. Better yet, they can often be tested in an animal “without actually affecting the organism,” Leport says.

The company is able to do this by targeting just one cell affected by the disease in each animal using cell therapy. This is a process similar to laboratory testing of drugs, where a treatment can be tested on a single cell in a test tube. But unlike a test tube, it has the advantage of being part of a whole organism, so the effects of the drug better mimic what would be seen in a real patient.

“We want to answer what happens therapeutically when everything works together,” Jensen said.

After testing is completed, cells are removed from the animal and analyzed by the company’s AI-powered software, which uses previous clinical data to predict whether a drug is a good candidate based on its activity in each cell. Ultimately, this process means that the animal’s overall health and well-being will not be affected.

Gordian said it was able to validate its platform through several experiments. For example, in a mouse with a common liver disease, 50 different gene therapies have been tested, 15 of which already have clinical data. The company’s software was able to correctly identify 13 out of 15 treatments as potential treatments. The company has seen similar accuracy in potential treatments for osteoarthritis in horses.

Going forward, Gordian aims to use its drug screening platform to discover new potential treatments that can advance into clinical trials themselves. Her primary focus is on fatty liver disease, osteoarthritis, and heart failure. It also plans to partner with other pharmaceutical companies to leverage its data into other potential drugs for age-related diseases.

“The mission is to treat as many of these diseases as possible,” Leport said. “We see this as a global mission because we all have personal reasons for wanting something against these diseases, either for ourselves or someone we love.”

More at Forbes

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