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Getting under your skin
FOSTER CITY, Calif.—Entelos, a life sciences company specializing in the building of predictive computer models of human physiology and "virtual patients" for drug discovery and development and product testing, completed in mid-December the development of a large-scale computer model that simulates the induction of skin sensitization. This work was done in collaboration with Unilever to guide the future development of new models for the safety assessment of consumer products, but in drafting the deal, Entelos retained full rights to use the technology independently, including rights for all pharmaceutical applications—and this stands to benefit drug discovery researchers down the line.
"Our goal is to find better ways to accurately predict the effects of a drug or chemical on humans," says James Karis, president and CEO of Entelos. The Entelos model helps researchers visualize the pathways contributing to skin sensitization, he says, and allows hypotheses to be rapidly tested via computer simulation. Results can then be used to inform and prioritize laboratory experiments. Preliminary analyses have already provided new information on the biology of skin sensitization and have identified several key pathways and processes for further exploration.
"The short-term opportunities for this platform can be looked at twofold," notes Mikhail Gishizky, Entelos' CSO. "One would be to look at potential efficacy of drugs for something like psoriasis, which is similar to the skin sensitization setup already in the platform. The second would be to examine potential adverse events of drug candidates that might cause skin-type reactions, such as rashes."
Entelos, he says, has traditionally focused on the efficacy aspects of its in silico platforms, but is pushing the ability to determine off-target or adverse events more heavily to partners and potential partners.
But looking toward the longer-term market opportunities, Gishizky says the applications are even broader than dermatological ones, and notes that the platform his company developed with Unilever could be modified for drug discovery and development with regard to immune and inflammatory diseases.
Gishizky says that several pharmaceutical and consumer products companies have approached Entelos about using the new platform, but declined to say how many or for what applications specifically. "We always make sure we have a partner when we create a new platform, rather than create a platform with the hope someone will need it," he notes. "But at the same time, we develop these platforms so that we have a certain freedom to operate and so that, as long as we don't use proprietary data from our development partner, we can set up other partnerships for other applications using the same platform. Our business model is not to develop exclusive products."