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Zymergen Advances Molecules for Prominent Malaria and COVID-19 Drug Targets for Further Testing


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Zymergen Advances Molecules for Prominent Malaria and COVID-19 Drug Targets for Further Testing

Biotechnology company Zymergen is pleased to announce early results from its work on infectious disease, discovering hundreds of potential novel hits against malaria, tuberculosis, and COVID-19 targets. Hits for PfAPP, a critical target in the treatment of malaria, are now being advanced for validation, with hits for an emerging COVID-19 target, PLpro, expected to follow.

This ambitious multi-target infectious disease program is supported through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, enabling Zymergen to identify novel hits for all three target pathogens. The early progress has been enabled by Zymergen’s differentiated cheminformatics capabilities and ability to search their proprietary virtual compound database of Natural Products.

“Virtual screening has been a powerful approach for discovering small molecule drugs, but applying this approach to more complex molecules has not been done on a large scale until now,” said Zymergen Research Fellow John Kulp. “Complex molecules like Natural Products have better bioactivity and are more likely to be able to treat hard-to-drug targets. Our platform and data give us a unique approach to leveraging these novel molecules.”

The targets were selected for their high therapeutic potential, but historic lack of progress using standard drug discovery approaches. For PfAPP, Zymergen has already identified >200 molecules with better docking scores than the current best-in-class molecule, apstatin. Docking scores are well-accepted in the industry for virtual screening campaigns and the best hits are now being moved into validation testing with a set of global partners. Zymergen will oversee all validation with funding provided as part of the Gates Foundation grant.

Zymergen recently announced its drug discovery business at the 40th annual JP Morgan Healthcare conference, with a goal of unlocking previously inaccessible chemical diversity to develop next generation therapeutics. Natural Products have a history of success as therapeutics and Zymergen’s unique platform that combines synthetic biology, cheminformatics and metagenomics has the potential to transform how these molecules are discovered and developed.

“We are incredibly pleased with the progress we are making through this collaboration, and today’s announcement is a reflection of our momentum,” said Zymergen VP of Innovation Devin Scannell. “Zymergen has a mission to make better products, a better way for a better world, and we’re looking forward to further progress in the development of treatments for these diseases that are an enormous burden on people, globally.”

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