Gandeeva CEO shares how integrating AI with cryo-electron microscopy can support drug discovery

Gandeeva Therapeutics, founded in 2021, is developing precision imaging solutions with the integration of cryo-electron microscopy […]

Gandeeva Therapeutics, founded in 2021, is developing precision imaging solutions with the integration of cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and artificial intelligence. In an interview, CEO and Founder Sriram Subramaniam said its technology can be applied to advance drug discovery and by lowering risks of late-stage clinical failures.

Why did you start this company?

As CEO and Founder at Gandeeva, I’ve spent more than two decades pursuing my dream of being able to literally walk into human cells and unravel the key molecular interactions that underlie the complex molecular networks that cells use to execute their function. In virtually all diseases, these intricate communication networks are disrupted because of faulty proteins or faulty connections in the network.

Just imagine if we could surgically repair these defective elements much like engineers may repair an electrical network and restore cells to being healthy, and when this may not be possible, take the whole defective cell out of action without affecting other healthy cells in the vicinity. This is the great future of precision medicine.

What need are you seeking to address in healthcare?

Drug discovery remains an expensive, slow, and often ineffective process despite the tremendous advances in medicine. We project that our platform will enable us to find the most effective drugs by discovering surfaces and interfaces that are most suited for targeting with drugs to achieve the necessary therapeutic effects.

What does your product do? How does it work?

Using powerful methods for imaging that I and my team have pioneered over the last few years, we can now visualize a variety of proteins and protein complexes at atomic resolution under physiologically relevant conditions. We can visualize drug molecules bound to these proteins. We can visualize how disease mutations impact the structure of these proteins and their networks.

This technology, referred to as cryogenic electron microscopy (or cryo-EM for short) is already beginning to revolutionize biology. Our technology platform combines technologies across machine learning, biochemistry, structural biology, cryo-EM imaging and computational modeling to characterize protein-drug interactions at the atomic level, aimed at providing new insights into targeting protein function.

By combining the awesome power of artificial intelligence and machine learning tools with cryo-EM, Gandeeva Therapeutics expects to create a paradigm shift in the way that medicines are created.

Is this your first healthcare startup? What’s your background in healthcare?

I’ve been working at the intersection of biology, engineering, medicine and chemistry for over two decades. Following an undergraduate degree in chemistry from the Indian Institute of Technology, I obtained my Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Stanford University and completed postdoctoral training in the Departments of Chemistry and Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

I am a first-time founder, but I have built and led interdisciplinary teams at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine and at the National Cancer Institute, NIH where I served as Chief of the Biophysics section in the Laboratories of Biochemistry and in Cell Biology. The work that I and my colleagues carried out at NIH showed for the first time that the structures of proteins, bound drugs as well as variety of dynamic protein complexes could be visualized using cryo-EM methods at near-atomic resolution.

In 2019, I was appointed as the Gobind Khorana Canada Excellence Research Chair at the University of British Columbia where I lead an interdisciplinary program in cancer drug design, which laid the foundation for my founding Gandeeva Therapeutics in 2021 with support from a very exciting spectrum of investors with interests spanning AI, biotech and drug discovery.

What is your company’s business model?

Gandeeva’s drug discovery platform is the first of its kind. We start by identifying the right protein interfaces to target, then use cutting-edge artificial intelligence and deep structural knowledge gleaned from the world’s most advanced imaging platform to develop superior therapies for patients.

Who is your customer? 

Our mission is to transform the lives of patients through the development of highly targeted, best-in-class therapeutics. We are open to the exploration of opportunities to expand our programs and invite potential partners to contact us for informal discussions.

How do you generate revenue?  

Our revenues will arise from drugs that deliver solutions for diseases with unmet needs. Our proprietary platform combines breakthrough technologies across chemistry, biology, imaging and machine learning. We visualize, measure and capture protein-protein and protein-drug interactions with unprecedented speed and resolution to precisely target disease-relevant proteins and influence their function.

Do you have clinical validation for your product?

All of our drug discovery programs take aim at clinically validated targets.

For life science companies: At what stage of development is your lead product?

All of the programs in our pipeline are at the preclinical stage.

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