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virtual-Ψ offers the recognition of potential side-effects on the basis of newly developed simulation techniques to drug developing companies. Furthermore, virtual-Ψ offers the prediction of immune reactions, specifically for the development of immunotherapeutics.


Releasing a single drug to the market requires an average of 13.5 years of development and frequently costs more than one billion dollars.

Side effects are a real and costly issue for investment in drug development and marketing. Worldwide, the costs of side effects are estimated to be several billion dollars. One-third of all failures in drug development are attributed to side effects. And in 2006, more than two million people in the U.S. experienced severe side effects, with 100,000 of them being lethal.

Most side effects are caused by the unwanted binding of the compound with other molecules in the body, such as receptors, enzymes, or ion channels. Often these effects only show up at a relatively late stage of development, e.g. clinical trials. Periodically a drug that successfully made it through trials will need to be taken off the market due to fatal side effects that only became apparent afterwards. And even drugs that aren't required to be discontinued, such as Aliskeren, Avandia and Dronedaron, can lose their dominant market position due to later-discovered negative side effects.

virtual-Ψ offers a comprehensive recognition of potential side effects in an early stage of development, providing a considerable improvement in the search for novel drugs. Far before costly testing on animals or even human, potential and unwanted binding partners can be identified.

With this ability to biochemically investigate side effects prior to animal trials, compounds can be optimized: binding to the target can be maximized and other bindings - side effects - can be blocked.

If optimization of a compound is not possible, then early detection can prevent further development before expensive and fruitless trials and studies are pursued, resulting in saved time, effort, and money.

Modern drug development relies largely on automated high throughput screening of large compound libraries to quickly identify binders for a given target. The virtual-Ψ side effect profile assists decisions of which compounds to proceed with.

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The immune system is the body's powerful defender against invaders as well as sick or dead tissue. Cancer, however, successfully circumvents being identified as noxious. Immunotherapy, one of the most promising recent approaches to battling cancer, aims at triggering the immune system via vaccination to attack tumor tissue: peptides or RNA-carrying tumor-specific sequence patterns are injected to train the immune system to recognize tumor tissue as an enemy.

The first step in activating the immune system is the recognition, i.e. the binding, of an immune receptor to a substance. In order for the T-cells, one of the key players of the adaptive immune system, to recognize epitopes, they need to be presented by the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). virtual-Ψ calculates the binding strength of molecules to immune receptors and/or MHC and, thereby, the likeliness of activation. The calculated likeliness to induce immune reactions, combined with the side-effect profile, allows selection of the most promising candidate sequences to be tested as vaccines.

The binding to an MHC or immune receptor is a crucial step for an immune reaction. However, the actual activation is a complex process. Our novel simulation techniques currently in development will shed light on the subsequent molecular processes and thus further improve predictions.


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About virtual-Ψ

virtual-Ψ is a biomedical startup comprised of scientists and business experts from the University of Leipzig, Germany. Our core competency and expertise is the prediction of intermolecular binding: the highly efficient calculation of molecular interactions.

This exciting and dynamic field provides a gateway to a host of far-reaching opportunities. While our immediate focus and delivery is the prediction and recognition of side effects, we foresee rapidly expanding into other applications as well. Our methodologies can further safe and profitable drug recycling by identifying positive side effects for already-available drugs by discovering the targets relevant to other diseases that a current drug may also bind to. Because approved drugs have already gone through clinical trials and adverse side effects are already known, tracing the compound's interaction pathways generates substantial cost and time savings.

virtual-Ψ started March 2016 in the bio-tech intensive city of Leipzig. We are located in the Biocity Leipzig, in close proximity to the Fraunhofer Institute of Cell-Therapy and Immunology and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

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