esqLABS awarded £1.6M to develop a Virtual Second Species

"biggest award to date in a single investment for an exciting project through our CRACK IT Challenges innovation programme"

CRACK IT Mega Challenge: Virtual Second Species: Phase II

esqLABS, led by Dr Stephan Schaller have been awarded £1.6M to deliver the CRACK IT Mega Challenge: Virtual Second Species, a project led by esqLABS Systems Toxicology Expert Dr Huan Yang.

The Virtual Second Species is the first Mega-CRACK IT Challenge* and seeks to exploit advances in computational approaches and machine learning to develop a “Virtual Dog” to ultimately replace their use for chronic toxicity studies. The Challenge is high risk because of the technical complexities, but the potential impact is significant for the use of dogs worldwide and the speed at which new medicines can be developed.

Currently, two animal species (a rodent and non-rodent), are typically used to assess the potential toxicity of new medicines before they move into clinical trials. The most commonly used non-rodent species used for new small molecule drugs is the dog. The Virtual Second Species builds on the NC3Rs toxicology programme that, in collaboration with over 30 pharmaceutical companies and regulatory bodies, analysed the use of two species in regulatory toxicology and identified opportunities to use a single species for certain drug modalities.

Cathy Vickers, Head of Innovation at the NC3Rs

We’re delighted that the Virtual Second Species Challenge team is now poised to start delivery of the Virtual Dog. The Challenge has the potential to deliver a step-change in the field of toxicological modelling and we are looking forward to working with the esqLABs team, the Sponsors and Partners on this exciting collaboration”.

Working with seven pharmaceutical industry Sponsors from the UK, mainland Europe and North America and partnering with the IMI2 consortium eTRANSAFE, the team at esqLABs GmbH will develop a machine learning-aided multi-scale modelling framework for toxicological endpoint prediction for new chemical entities in the dog.

To learn more about the Challenge, visit the Virtual Second Species Challenge page on the NC3R Innovation Platform.

*Mega Challenges are large scale research and development projects with additional resource available for validation, scale-up and commercialisation.

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