Paving the Way for Ethical R&D

Laura Diez

Startup Stories

In this enlightening interview, we have the privilege of conversing with Pedro Lopes, the Chief Scientific Officer of FastCompChem, a pioneering company at the forefront of cheminformatics. FastCompChem is breaking new ground with their cutting-edge technologies, leveraging electronic structures and quantum chemical calculations to address current limitations in computational toxicology. Join us as Pedro Lopes explains the driving force behind the company's inception, their mission to revolutionize drug discovery through ethical and innovative safety assessment technologies, and their compelling approach to partnering with pharmaceutical companies, health insurers, and potential clients. Discover the exciting vision of FastCompChem and their ambitious plans for the future, as we explore how 5-HT can play a pivotal role in supporting their journey towards a more efficient and responsible pharmaceutical industry.

How would you explain your solution in three sentences to a professional colleague from the health sector? 
We develop radically new technologies for cheminformatics, based on electronic structures, with application in computational toxicology, to address current limitations. Our technology covers much larger swaths of the chemical space using a significantly reduced number of descriptors. For example, the concept of read-across is made redundant. The technology can be extended to other applications of cheminformatics when problems can be represented by suitable quantum chemical calculations.

What problem motivated you to start the company?

The decreasing numbers of new molecular entities approvals and increasing R&D costs is a major concern for the pharmaceutical industry, with safety being a major reason for attrition. Thus, addressing safety is a sure way of improving drug discovery. After developing proprietary algorithms for fast quantum calculations on very large systems, we are able to develop the next generation of technologies that will improve drug discovery significantly. Our motivation is to help drug discovery through radically new  safety assessment technologies that address the major problems of current methods using quantum chemical and machine learning.

How do you convince a pharmaceutical company, a health insurance company or another potential client to set up a pilot project with you?

Reduction of R&D costs while improving on the number of the new molecular entities is the ultimate goal of the pharmaceutical industry. However, these improvements, even if possible, cannot happen at any cost. For example, there are strong societal and regulatory enforcements for the ethical use of animals through implementation of the 3Rs principles (reduce, reuse and recycle). We address both improving the R&D outcomes and ethical R&D practices. The pharma industry is eager to engage into promising technologies, for example AI and quantum computing. As it is used today, AI is far from fulfilling its full potential, because it often relies on outdated molecular descriptors, and quantum computing is still distant. Thus, there is a need for more effective technologies. By partnering with us, pharmaceutical companies will be able to:

  • co-develop and test the most innovative technologies for safety assessment, a major reason for attrition in drug development. Our technologies, that solve the major problems of current cheminformatics, will be able to prioritize compounds with good safety profiles early in the development pipeline. This will allow significant cost savings.

  • Using dual computational and in-vitro methods will allow the industry to fulfill the 3Rs principles, thus complying with societal and regulatory pressures.

We can significantly enhance R&D outcomes in drug development and improve the company´s standing towards society and regulators.

Who are your current customer (groups) and who do you want your potential customers to be?

Our immediate focus is to provide solutions that can dramatically improve the outcomes of drug development. This is particularly appealing to pharmaceutical companies. Other immediate corporate beneficiaries are the cosmetic and chemical industries. Apart from industrial applications, the technology is also extremely relevant at regulatory level. In the medium term, the novel computational tools can be integrated with in-vitro technologies to provide approved approaches for safety assessment. They can provide realistic alternatives to animal testing, fulfilling the 3Rs goals. In the longer term the digital fingerprint will be at the core of cheminformatics applications.

Where do you see yourself in 3 years and how can 5-HT support you?

In 3 years the new technology will be part of the companies’ workflows, providing early safety assessment. The technology will be also undergoing testing at regulatory level with integration with in-vivo approaches. 5-HT can facilitate creating a wider consortium of us, our scientific partners, pharma companies and eventually public funders to hasten development. Participation of the industry is important in integrating the technology in current workflows and in providing meaningful data.

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