Toronto start-up, Cyclica, introduces big data technology for personalized healthcare

Photo & Video Courtesy of Cyclica

Company Name: Cyclica
Project Title: Genetic variation and structure-based drug polypharmacology: Multiscale structural pharmacogenomics
Supported By: SOSCIP, FedDev, OCE, IBM Canada Ltd.
SOSCIP Platform: Cloud Analytics
Technologies/Processes: Machine learning, cloud analytics

A Toronto-based start-up is accessing the SOSCIP cloud analytics platform to develop a technology that will offer insight into how different people respond to therapeutic drugs at a genetic level.

Cyclica is an early-stage computational biotechnology company that over the past 4 years has developed, validated, patented and commercialized a proprietary platform that harnesses big data to build models that can explain and predict the effects of medications. They have now turned their attention to leveraging their core platform to understand variation in drug response between unique individuals. A daunting task, considering a small-molecule drug could potentially interact with hundreds of the 20,000 known human genes, causing adverse and unexpected side effects.

“Historically, the industry has largely assumed that a given medicine is doing one thing,” explained Naheed Kurji, president and CEO, Cyclica. “Over the past few years the industry has come to understand that one drug has many effects. Uncovering all of those cumulative effects, both on- and off-target effects, could offer real insight into that drug’s efficacy.”

Cyclica provides enhanced drug discovery for pre-clinical, clinical, and FDA drug markets with their signature in-house bioinformatics platform, Ligand Express™. The SOSCIP Cloud will enable Cyclica to develop technology that supports personalized medicine, a ground-breaking change to a traditional industry.

Currently, pharmaceutical companies in North America spend approximately $3-billion and take 15 years to bring a single drug to market, a significant barrier to drug discovery which typically results in the development of one-size fits all drugs. Cyclica’s technology could reduce that time and cost by years and possibly tens of millions, and result in the design of tailor-made drugs that are safer and more effective.

“Introducing informatics helps scientists prioritize their experiments and formulate the correct hypothesis from the start,” said Stephen MacKinnon, director of R&D, Cyclica.

“Through SOSCIP, we can explore all of the possible interactions a drug has to better understand why it works or has adverse side effects in one person and not another.”

The team includes 16 full-time employees, many of whom were educated at Ontario universities including: Queen’s University, University of Toronto, and University of Waterloo.

In addition to cloud access, SOSCIP also provided funding for Cyclica to hire talented post-doctoral fellow, Soroush Samadian, who is trained in machine learning in bioinformatics.

Samadian is one of more than 450 trainees to have gained valuable data science skills through SOSCIP collaborative research projects, expertise that is growing in demand as more companies turn to advanced computing to address industry challenges.

Kurji, a UofT alum, says now is the time for Ontario to adopt new technologies for innovation: “We have so much opportunity in our backyard. In the next ten or 15 years, we’ll look back at this decade as a point in time that catalyzed Canada as a thought leadership centre in computation, artificial intelligence and personalized medicine.”

Story Credit: Krista Davidson

 

SOSCIP is a research and development consortium that pairs academic and industry researchers with advanced computing tools to fuel Canadian innovation.  SOSCIP supports projects that have the potential to have a considerable impact on the lives of Canadians, within areas such as cities, energy, health, water, advanced manufacturing, cybersecurity, digital media and mining. The consortium includes 15 of Ontario’s most research-intensive academic institutions as well as Ontario Centres of Excellence and the IBM Canada Research and Development Centre.