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Simulations and AI: Qubit Pharmaceuticals, Institut Curie and the University of Bordeaux team up to advance the development of novel cancer therapies

Institut Curie and Qubit Pharmaceuticals, a deeptech company specializing in the discovery of new drug candidates using simulation and AI accelerated by hybrid HPC* and quantum computing, announce their collaboration in the search for new therapeutic avenues to treat cancer.

The project will be carried out in partnership with the Laboratoire de Microbiologie Fondamentale et Pathogénicité at the University of Bordeaux.

TREX1 enzyme, a "two-in-one" therapeutic target

As cells proliferate, they can get compressed, and their nuclei can rupture. In a study[1] published in 2021 in the journal Cell, researchers from Institut Curie, Inserm and CNRS have shown that these ruptures allow DNA to come into contact with the TREX1 enzyme, whose usual function is to protect the cell from external threats. As a result, the tumor progresses towards more dangerous invasive stages.

By specifically blocking this enzyme, it should be possible to amplify the efficacy of treatments, as explained by Dr. Nicolas Manel, Inserm researcher and head of the "Innate immunity" team at Institut Curie (Inserm U932), author of the work leading to this discovery:

TREX1 represents a target of great interest, acting on two major therapeutic axes. Successfully inhibiting it would significantly increase the immune response against tumor cells and block metastatic processes.

All three partners will combine their expertise to inhibit this key agent. This collaborative approach reflects the shared commitment of Qubit Pharmaceuticals, Institut Curie and the University of Bordeaux to explore innovative approaches to the development of more targeted and effective cancer therapies.

The power of high-performance computing, simulation and AI to accelerate the discovery of drug candidates

With its Cancer Immunotherapy Center, the only one of its kind in France, Institut Curie brings together doctors, researchers and healthcare professionals to expand our understanding and develop the immunotherapies of tomorrow. Building on the expertise of Dr. Nicolas Manel and his team, Qubit Pharmaceuticals will leverage Atlas, its drug design platform, to generate new molecules with a profile specifically optimized to inhibit this target. Atlas is capable of creating true digital twins of drug candidates, and can predict their interactions extremely accurately and rapidly thanks to high-performance computing. This makes it possible to explore and imagine new molecules that conventional approaches would not have identified.

As soon as these molecules have been identified and synthesized, Dr. Manel's team at Institut Curie will validate them using biological tests. The University of Bordeaux will carry out biochemical and structural characterizations of the identified leads, thanks to the work of the group led by Dr. Paul Lesbats, a CNRS researcher at the Laboratoire de Microbiologie Fondamentale et Pathogénicité, specialized in understanding the consequences of molecular interactions between proteins and their ligands.

The aim is to significantly shorten the early stages of drug candidate discovery in order to bring new therapeutic solutions to patients.

Even before clinical trials begin, the selection of drug candidates is time-consuming and costly. Leveraging simulation and artificial intelligence will considerably speed up this stage, enabling patients to benefit as quickly as possible from a promising new immunotherapy treatment.

explains Dr. Cécile Campagne, director of Institut Curie’s Technology Transfer Office and deputy director of Carnot Curie Cancer.

Robert Marino, CEO Qubit Pharmaceuticals, states: 

The fight against cancer is a major objective for Qubit Pharmaceuticals, and we are extremely pleased to be able to collaborate with Institut Curie in its historic fight for research in this field. Our areas of expertise are complementary. I am convinced that this dual approach combining simulation & AI, and in vivo validation led by expert teams is an opportunity to accelerate the discovery of drug candidates to improve patients' lives. We are delighted and honored to be working with Institut Curie & the University of Bordeaux along these lines.


[1] Reference : G. Nader et al., Compromised nuclear envelope 1 integrity drives TREX1-dependent DNA damage and tumor cell invasionCell, 21 septembre 2021. DOI : 10.1016/j.cell.2021.08.035