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USF Drug Discovery Startup Ibis Therapeutics Focuses Technology on COVID-19

USF Chemistry Professor Wayne Guida is the founder of drug discovery startup Ibis Therapeutics.

Founded by USF Chemistry Professor Wayne Guida, Ibis Therapeutics is focusing its efforts on faster and more efficient ways of testing potential COVID-19 treatments.

TAMPA, Fla. – Ibis Therapeutics, an artificial intelligence-enabled drug discovery platform that works to produce faster, more accurate and less costly results is turning its focus to COVID-19.

Founded by USF Chemistry Professor Wayne Guida, the company is training its drug discovery efforts on COVID-19 and inflammation, enabling a more cost-effective process of investigating every protein in the SARS-CoV-2 viral proteome for drug candidates. The use of the Ibis Therapeutics technology is substantially reducing the time of discovering compounds that might be effective against COVID-19.

Founded at USF and grown in the university’s startup incubator, Ibis Therapeutics was recently selected as one of just seven companies in the nationally-known XLerateHealth accelerator headquartered in Louisville.

COVID-19, caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection, has ravaged the United States and nations worldwide. Globally, legions of both academic and industry scientists are working at an urgent pace to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 and more effective treatments to stem the death toll.

“This will improve returns on investment and allow for rapid adaptations to the greatest needs of patients during times of crisis such as COVID-19,” Guida said.

Ibis Therapeutics is transforming the drug discovery process by increasing the speed and safety of research and development while significantly decreasing the number of drug failures and overall cost.

The Ibis Therapeutics team uses a unique AI engine called SIGNAL© - a proprietary computer-based drug discovery tool that was developed by Guida and his team. SIGNAL© is capable of identifying top candidates that can go to clinic quickly, predict how the drug behaves in the body,  and even gives an idea of expected toxicities.  Additionally, SIGNAL©can  identify the best drug candidates from a quarter billion small molecules.

Already, Ibis Therapeutics researchers have incorporated 26 out of 29 SARS-CoV-2 proteins into its drug discovery platform, SIGNAL©, and identified several drug candidates from 330,000 small molecules, many of which are FDA approved, Guida said.

SIGNAL© can identify new drugs in one or two days where traditional approaches take months to years, Guida said.

Although there are several companies using a similar approach, the SIGNAL© platform is  uniquely capable of predicting how a drug will perform across both human and viral proteins to select the  best candidates with unique properties for antiviral testing, Guida said. SIGNAL© is better because of its exceedingly low error rate in the drug discovery process compared to traditional approaches that are slow, expensive, and error prone, he said.

A preeminent scientist in the field of computer- aided drug discovery, Guida is the first CEO and President of Schrodinger, Corp, the leading software company in the pharmaceutical industry (NASDAQ: SDGR).

“It is faster because it is aided by algorithms and machine learning and it is cheaper because many of the drugs are already used for other medical indications,’ he said. “One of the new concepts in drug discovery is to repurpose existing drugs to save time in toxicity testing.  SIGNAL© is a remarkably effective method to accomplish the goal of rapid drug discovery. “

XLerateHealth is an enterprise-focused early-stage healthcare accelerator that helps companies build out their commercialization strategies. Through its flagship 12-week bootcamp, XLH connects selected startups with clinical, academic, and business leaders who have the expertise to help the entrepreneurs think through all aspects of commercialization.

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