Researchers’ Startup Company Uses Innovative Technology to Identify Novel Drug Targets

A new biotechnology startup with its origins in the work of two neuroscientists is capturing attention for its potential to revolutionize drug discovery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

The company, Truvitech, LLC, which is located at Converge Miami, is the brainchild of two faculty members at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Miami Project to Cure Paralysis — Hassan Al-Ali, Ph.D., research assistant professor of neurological surgery, and Vance Lemmon, Ph.D., the Walter G. Ross Distinguished Chair in Developmental Neuroscience and professor of neurological surgery. Truvitech’s patent-pending technology uses a unique combination of biochemical profiling, cell-based screening, and machine learning to rapidly discover responsive pharmacological targets.

The two key components of the platform are a specially designed chemical probe library and a unique algorithm for data analysis. The approach frequently identifies not just one, but several potential targets. This is critical information for developing efficacious drugs, and for designing optimal drug combinations.

In addition, the platform identifies anti-targets — biological components whose engagement must be avoided to maximize therapeutic efficacy. Together, these features provide an unprecedented advantage for drug discovery programs.

“Identifying effective drug targets can take decades and cost tens of millions of dollars,” said Lemmon. “The inefficiency in this process has significantly contributed to the sky-high costs of putting a drug on the market and the high prices experienced by patients.”

Specifically, the company seeks to revolutionize how drug targets are discovered and, consequently, how drugs are developed and combined for maximal therapeutic impact. Truvitech achieves this through the collaborative creativity of clinicians, biologists, chemists, and computer scientists.

“We want to make it possible to identify drug targets within several months and at a small fraction of the current cost,” said Al-Ali. “Reducing the inefficiency in this critical step of the drug discovery process stands to benefit all stakeholders, including drug developers and patients.”

So far, the application of Truvitech’s technology has resulted in a promising compound that is currently in preclinical development for treating central nervous system injuries. The company is also in the planning phase for a diabetic kidney disease drug. Proof-of-concept applications for other disease models have demonstrated the high portability of the platform.
Truvitech was recently awarded a highly competitive Small Business Technology Transfer grant from the National Center for Advancing Translational Science at the National Institutes of Health.

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