• Tuesday, January 31, 2023 @ 12:00 am
  • Four partners, BioCopy, VitroScan, Imuno Therapeutics and Utrecht University, aim to develop and commercialize a joint technological platform to analyze and validate the efficacy and safety profiles of pre-selected drug candidates against cancer.
  • The BioCopy technology will help validate and improve computer models and in silico prediction of binding interactions.

BioCopy GmbH receives EUR 500,000 in the EUREKA-funded project HITS (High-throughput Immunotherapy Screening). Together with two other industrial partners (VitroScan and Imuno Therapeutics) and Utrecht University, a technological platform will be developed to predict, analyze, validate and optimize the efficacy and safety profile of lead candidates for cancer immunotherapies.

Immunotherapies use the body’s own defense mechanisms or cells of the immune system to combat diseases like cancer. They offer new solutions for combating previously un-addressable tumors. For the development of such immunotherapies, the relevant therapeutics must be thoroughly investigated regarding their molecular binding properties to tumor markers – in this case peptide-HLAs (pHLA). The problem is: there are millions of different pHLAs in the body and one must choose one pHLA-binding molecule in the development of an oncological drug candidate. Ideally, this should be a specific pHLA binder which uses the immune system’s defense mechanisms to destroy the tumor –  with only  minimal side effects for patients.

The current state of the art is subject to limitations. Generally, hundreds of individual measurements are required to assess the specificity of a candidate; this is highly time-consuming. Yet, these measurements are essential to correctly assess the potential risks of a therapeutic binder against pHLA molecules. Since these measurements are time consuming and expensive, they are usually performed only with the final lead candidates.

This is why the high-throughput immunotherapy screening platform project "HITS" relies on interdisciplinary collaboration to make a much more relevant selection for their drug candidate. It combines BioCopy's high-throughput screening technology with Utrecht University's computational modeling and Imuno Therapeutics' in-silico prediction. The potential bindings with other (in this case unwanted) pHLAs, known as "off-target binding", are predicted by artificial intelligence (AI). These are measured and validated by BioCopy with their patented microarray technology in combination with the proprietary highSCORE system. VitroScan then investigates those drug candidates that show the optimal binding behavior for their efficacy against cells using ex vivo assays.

In the course of the project, prediction algorithms and modeling will be continuously adapted to the measured results; also, the BioCopy screening technology and the ex vivo test will be developed further. At the end of the project, the developed workflow will be offered as a service. Interested customers would then only need to specify the desired molecules and targets: The ideal drug candidates are selected by the artificial intelligence and subsequently analyzed for their binding properties; eventually, the selected candidates are confirmed for their cellular efficacy.

By pooling the expertise of the four project partners, more effective and safer drug candidates can be found that are less prone to side effects and thus facilitate better immunotherapies against cancer.