The process for developing drugs and vaccines hasn’t changed much over the last few years, despite incredible advancements in the AI technology offerings. Currently, pharma companies that want to trial their new drugs; first must test them on lab mice, which have quite a different anatomy than that of humans. This results in nearly 90% of drugs tested on mice failing the human trials. Nobel Prize laureate, Prof. Aaron Ciechanover, has teamed up with a couple of entrepreneurs to help solve this problem, with AI, of course.
“Human-on-a-Chip” helps us predict which vaccines are effective
Quirs was founded in 2019 by Isaac Bentwich, MD, and Yossi Haran. The startup wants to enable pharmaceutical companies to better predict which drugs will successfully clear quality and safety tests in clinical trials in humans. The platform uses a model with a cool, but somewhat creepy, name -- Patients-on-a-Chip.
In order to create the "Patients-on-a-Chip", Quris used several "Chip-on-a-Chips" - which are small devices that simulate the operation of the various organs for research purposes and connected them to each other so that together they created "human-on-chip". Then, new drugs and vaccines can be experimented on those same “humans”. Quris' system includes nano-sensors that are used to examine the effects of each drug or vaccine being tested on "patients" to understand its implications and know how to label them in the company's AI system.
This way, the various vaccines can be tested on "Humans-on-a-Chip" - a method that much more accurately simulates the human body compared to the current experimentation on mice, which, as mentioned, is significantly different from human trials. The company also made sure to create a large number of human profiles, in order to reflect greater diversity, which better suits the world's population.
Along with using this method to perform the process of examining drugs and vaccines instead of the various animals often used, whose physiological connection to us is very small. Qurios boasts their artificial intelligence platform based on a data set created by performing drug and vaccine simulations using the method the company had developed - thus improving Itself drug trial prediction capabilities.
Quris reports that its platform was used to develop the first cure for Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic condition where patients show symptoms across a wide spectrum - from external and cosmetic effects to severe mental disabilities. It is a disease that has no animal model and without the Quris platform, human trials would have been required to create a potentially life-changing drug. The company now reports that the drug developed with its help is expected to enter clinical trials in 2022.
Alongside co-founders Bentwich and Haran, one of the company’s key figures is Nobel Prize for Chemistry laureate Prof. Aaron Ciechanover -- who won the award in 2004 along with two other researchers. The startup’s scientific team also includes Prof. Robert Langer, co-founder of Moderna -- who along with Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and J&J have produced vaccines to help us return to normal following the outbreak of global pandemic.
Quris has 18 patents approved or in the approval process, and is collaborating with Israeli universities, as well as with the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) -- one of the world’s leading genetic research labs. As part of the partnership, Quris will gain access to a wide genetic variety of stem cells and relevant automation technologies.
“Significantly improve prediction of clinical trial outcome”
In a conversation with Geektime, Bentwich, the company's CEO and one of its founders, explains that what contributed most to the development and idea - is his background as a doctor and his time at Rosetta Genomics - which used AI to analyze the human genome, along with his partner's background in miniature biological mechanics. According to Bentwich, the company expects that its system will significantly improve prediction of clinical trial outcome, and whether a drug will be effective and safe for humans. "Experiments have shown that the use of a Chip-on-a-Chip significantly improves this predictive power, but until now it hasn’t been feasible, because no systems could run thousands, and later millions of such tests."
The past two years have been proof of the urgency to to create quality but safe vaccines -- How could the Quris system have impacted the COVID vaccine development process? Is it safe to say that you would have been able to save time, and if so how much?
"The Qurios' platform, once completed, will undoubtedly be a breakthrough in the ability to test and design drugs and vaccines in an accelerated and inexpensive manner, which will save years and hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in the development of each drug and vaccine."
Regarding the connection to the Israeli Nobel laureate, Bentwich says: "When I founded Quris, I approached and invited them to join me on this journey, and lead Quris’ scientific guidance. To my delight they enthusiastically accepted the invitation, and indeed their contribution here is very very significant."
The Richter doctors get on board
Recently, the company reported its Seed round, which was led by the most active investing duo in the HealthTech sector, Dr. Kobi Richter and Dr. Judith Richter. Others who participated in the round included the founder of InfiniDat, Moshe Yanai, Matthew Bronfman, Leon Recanati, and others.