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Terrapeutics Pharma (“Terrapeutics”) and the Helmholtz-Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS) are pleased to announce that they have reached a cooperation agreement to co-develop novel natural products that will be the basis for new drugs in two of the most challenging drug targets that are considered the “holy grail” of the pharmaceutical industry. The HIPS is a joint institution of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) and Saarland University.

Some of the most devastating diseases, such as infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and RAS-driven cancers (pancreatic, colon, and more), are currently undruggable despite detailed knowledge of the underlying molecular mechanisms. More than 30 percent of all human cancers – including 95 percent of pancreatic cancers and 45 percent of colorectal cancers — are driven by mutations of the RAS family of genes. Ras signaling is an important intracellular signaling pathway that plays a role in cellular proliferation and differentiation, survival, and gene expression as well as cell death.

Some of the best medicines have been discovered as products of soil microorganisms, including most antibiotics, chemotherapies, immunosuppressants, and cholesterol-lowering statins. While industry leaders agree that small bioactive molecules produced by microorganisms have a tremendous potential to solve this therapeutic challenge, current methodologies can test only 0.1% of their potential. The staggering 99.9% are unexplored and considered “dark matter” to pharma companies.

Under this collaboration, Terrapeutics will utilize its groundbreaking technology to screen and select microorganisms that produce small molecule inhibitors targeted against resistant bacteria and oncogenic RAS. HIPS will utilize its expertise to isolate, characterize and optimize the newly discovered novel molecules for their use in humans.

Dr. Ariel Werman, CSO & Co-Founder of Terrapeutics said: “This agreement represents an important milestone in Terrapeutics road to become a world leader in natural molecule-based drug discovery, focusing on undruggable targets. Our revolutionary technology, enables us to look at the 99.9% fraction of the naturally produced molecules that the pharmaceutical industry is blind to, and rapidly, selectively and accurately pick microorganisms that produce molecules that respond to specific drug targets. It is as if we are performing a high throughput screening against a specific drug target, using nature as our library of compounds”

Eddie Sadan, CEO & Co-Founder of Terrapeutics added that “this is a strategic engagement with a world leading research institute in the field of natural molecules for Pharmaceutical use that leverages our innovative approach to this field together with HIPS outstanding capabilities and knowledge to solve two of the biggest challenges the pharmaceutical industry faces”.

In the research area Microbial Natural Products, HIPS aims at identifying and isolating novel chemical scaffolds from soil bacteria and assess their activity against a panel of clinically relevant pathogens. Modern genome-mining tools are applied to shed light on the full biosynthetic potential of a large collection of secondary metabolite producing bacteria. Once interesting candidates are identified, HIPS attempt to decipher their molecular mode of action and investigate how resistance to the compound might be mediated. The generated knowledge is then applied to develop biotechnological and chemical strategies on how to improve the pharmaceutical properties of these molecules.

Prof. Dr. Rolf Muller, Managing Director at the HIPS, commented: “We are intrigued to jointly evaluate the potential of Terrapeutics technology for the isolation of bacteria producing specific natural products. If we can manage to specifically isolate those bacteria that make the compounds we are looking for, we can skip a very time- and cost-intensive part of the usual drug development process. This would bring us a big step forwards in the fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and other diseases threatening global human health.”

About HIPS

The Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS) in Saarbrücken is a site of the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research (HZI) and was jointly founded by HZI and Saarland University in 2009. Researchers at the HIPS focus on the development of novel anti-infectives by combining state-of-the-art medicinal chemistry and natural product-based research with innovative drug delivery approaches.

About Terrapeutics

Terrapeutics is a drug discovery startup that developed a revolutionary technology that screens the full potential of naturally produced molecules and allows selecting a specific drug-producing microorganism from a vastly complex environment. Using synthetic biology, the company challenges the resident bacteria in their natural environment so that its community’s survival depends on the synthesis of an inhibitor to a drug target of our choice. Terrapeutics‘ technology swiftly identifies these microbes and their produced molecules. Its powerful methodology leads to the discovery of novel scaffolds that inhibit the most challenging drug targets, including what are considered “undruggable” in a rapid manner.

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