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Source: France 3 as of 17-06-2020

The discovery of a vaccine against coronavirus is hoped for quickly. And this is where MAbSilico, a specialist in artificial intelligence algorithms, intervenes to accelerate its production.

MAbSilico is a tourangelle start-up specializing in artificial intelligence that works to discover and characterize therapeutic antibodies and the production of bio-drugs.

“Artificial intelligence and numerical simulation are used to guide the discovery, characterization and optimization of new biomolecules. Computer modeling is done to prequalify antibodies. Our goal is to be able to capitalize on AI to develop monoclonal antibodies, including innovative bispecifics,” explains bioinformatics scientist Vincent Puard.

The language is a bit barbaric for us ” simple earthlings” in front of these biologists of the new generation. Vincent Puard is one of those bioinformatics, as they are called. Before I even asked him, he heard the distress in my voice and was careful to translate me.

“If you want, today between the time we get an idea of treatment for a pathology and the time when the patient is going to receive a drug, 10 years will pass and almost a billion euros will be spent. In these 10 years, there are two phases: the first 5 years called the preclinical phase, which consists of testing on animals. The second is the clinical phase, also 5 years old but here incompressive, which consists of doing the tests on humans before marketing the drug. We are involved in the 5-year preclinical phase, which we can reduce to a few days, at most a few weeks. How? Thanks to the modelling we do on computers instead of laboratory tests. Concretely, to give you an example: when in the lab we realize that molecules are “screwed” after a few years, we can know it from day one using the computing power of computers. Are you following me? ».

In other words, if we want to hang up this explanation on the hot news, MAbSilico is doing everything to accelerate the creation of a vaccine against COVID-19.

“The answer is triple yes! We are working on several tracks.

First, we collaborated with a Nantes company that is developing a vaccine using a small protein that they had selected. We did 25,000 modelling of this protein to find out which molecule was the right one. Once found, the Nantes researchers were able to focus on it. It is still under consideration.

Within our team, we have several areas of work. The first we call it the MAbMature method. It is used to convert anti-SARS-CoV antibodies (the earlier version of Covid-19, responsible for the 2003 outbreak) into anti-SARS-CoV2 antibodies from the plasma of patients who developed these antibodies resistant to the first epidemic. The data scientists on our team select the antibodies that have the strongest affinity with the new virus. Once collected, biomathematicians modify these antibodies with a few mutations to adapt them to the new virus.

Our second lead is quite similar but with patients who have contracted Covid-19 and are cured. Her name is MAbSelec. We work from their antibodies. We take the blood of an infected patient. We do our computer hacks called a DNA sequence and once we have the information that allows us to know which antibodies are directed against coronavirus, we select them and reproduce them massively.”

This young start-up (3 years old), recently established at the HQ de Tours (the coworking space), intends to continue its meteoric development. Its 8 bioinformatics hope to soon change the lives of thousands of people with Covid-19 or other serious diseases.

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