The Israel-based venture studio AION Labs last week announced the formation of a new start-up, TenAces Biosciences, which will leverage machine learning for molecular glue discovery.
Molecular glues help proteins bind. AION Labs is a project of AstraZeneca, Merck, Pfizer, Teva, Israel Biotech Fund, Amiti Ventures, and Amazon Web Services. It is powered by Germany’s BioMed X.
The company aims to improve the success rate of the discovery of treatments for a range of conditions.
“This is a prime example of a major R&D challenge, identified by AION Labs’ pharma partners’ experts, where we sought out potential scientist-founders to develop a technology to address it,” explained AION Labs CEO Mati Gill.
AION Labs selected Dr. Arnout Schepers, who founded and is now CEO of TenAces. Schepers hired a team of experts in artificial intelligence and machine learning to work with him. He also uses the pharma R&D mentors provided by AION’s partners to help him develop the company.
“Our aspiration is to get Arnout and TenAces to a place where they can develop this technology with our pharma partners, prove the concept, and then raise his next round of funding to grow this start-up from Israel,” Gill told The Jerusalem Post.
Debut in the shadow of October 7
When asked about the start-up’s debut in the shadow of the October 7 Hamas massacre and the Israel-Hamas war, Gill added: “This new innovation emphasizes AION Labs’ and our partners’ commitment to continue to build and deliver start-ups, no matter what, for the sake of helping to improve healthcare.”
AION Labs explained that molecular glues are usually discovered by chance. When one is found, it is then studied and leveraged to help discover other glues. TenAces, on the other hand, will use machine learning to help predict new molecular glues.
“We are developing a novel solution for targeted protein degradation … and designing molecular glues for removal of disease-causing proteins,” Schepers said. “With some 85% of target proteins currently undruggable, we can potentially address a wide range of diseases.”
Gill said that “TenAces’ approach has the potential to change the landscape of targeted protein degradation by offering new avenues in the quest for new, effective therapies.
“At a very high level, this is a technology that will ideally help the start-up identify asset candidates to develop a new drug pipeline,” Gill continued. “In addition, our pharma partners will be able to implement this technology in their own development and drug pipeline programs.”