Finding solutions to complex diseases is top of the agenda for a collaboration between a leading UK innovation engine and a Budapest-based biotech firm.

Cancer Research Horizons is part of Cancer Research UK, the world’s largest private funder of cancer research. It has partnered with Turbine to use its Simulated Cells™ platform in identifying target patient populations who could benefit from CDC7* inhibitor therapy with Cancer Research Horizons’ lead compound CRT’2199.

CRT’2199 originates from Cancer Research Horizons’ Therapeutic Innovation.** CDC7 is a protein which plays a vital role in the regulation of cell division in normal cells. However, dysregulation of CDC7 can lead to the formation of cancer cells, and overexpression of this protein is correlated with poor clinical prognosis in diverse cancers of significant unmet patient need.

Despite its role in the progression and outcome in many cancers, no CDC7 inhibitors have progressed to Phase III trials, and a clear picture is lacking on what types of cancer could be effectively and safely treated by inhibiting CDC7.

The partnership aims to change this. Using Turbine’s AI-powered simulation approach, Turbine and Cancer Research Horizons will inhibit CDC7 in digital cancer cells that represent different patient populations, to determine which cancer types and patient populations are most likely to respond to treatment with CRT’2199.

Turbine, which leverages computational simulations to solve complex questions in oncology, will receive a revenue share of Cancer Research Horizon’s future revenues from the CDC7 inhibitor program upon successful commercialisation in exchange for identifying and validating a disease positioning strategy.

Turbine’s Simulated Cell technology uses machine learning to train digital versions of cancer cells to behave in the same way that real cancer cells would, enabling simulations to show how cancer cells react to different triggers, such as transcriptomic changes and anticancer drugs.*** Predictions based on this biological understanding provide invaluable insights at any point of the drug discovery and development process and can guide subsequent real-life experiments that increase the likelihood of success for a project.

Multiple companies have relied on Simulated Cells to inform their pipeline decision-making, including Bayer and two top-20 pharma companies that have leveraged the technology to generate multiple predictions that are currently in clinical validation.

“Turbine’s technology provides a unique opportunity to gather insights into cancer cell behaviour at a scale and speed which isn’t possible to achieve in a traditional drug discovery setting,” said Dr. Daniel Veres, Chief Science Officer and co-founder of Turbine. “We’re looking forward to working with Cancer Research Horizons to identify suitable patient populations for its CDC7 inhibitors and accelerate their clinical development, in the name of hopefully bringing important new therapeutic options to patients that need them as quickly as possible.”

Tony Hickson, on behalf of Cancer Research UK and Cancer Research Horizons, said: “We know that CDC7 inhibitors hold enormous potential as a class of anti-cancer therapeutics, but the problem so far has been finding the right patients who could benefit from them.

“This is why we are excited to be partnering with Turbine to develop novel patient selection strategies for our CDC7 inhibitor compounds. Bolstered by Turbine’s unique capabilities, we hope to gain novel insights into the activity of these drug candidates, bringing closer the day when we could see them reach the clinic to benefit patients who need them.”

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*Cell Division Cycle 7-related Kinase. CDC7 is an enzyme in humans that is encoded by the CDC7 gene. It is critical for the regulation of the cell cycle at the point of chromosomal DNA replication. In cancer, overexpression of the CDC7 gene is often associated with poor clinical outcomes.


***These hypotheses are then validated using conventional methods.