HONG KONG – Peptidream Inc. has partnered with four other Japanese companies to research and develop peptide therapeutics capable of neutralizing the SARS-CoV-2 virus as well as potential future coronavirus outbreaks.

Peptiaid Inc., the joint venture established with Fujitsu Ltd., Mizuho Financial Group Inc. subsidiary Mizuho Capital Co. Ltd., Takenaka Corp. and Kishida Chemical Co. Ltd., will have capital totaling ¥599 million (US$5.73 million) by Dec. 31, with Peptidream and Fujitsu each owning a 25% stake. Mizuho Capital will own 24.9%, Takenaka will hold 16.7% and Kishida 8.3%, according to the Dec. 31 projection.

“Ultimately, we aim to establish a new foundation for the drug discovery process for the ‘new normal’ era through the power of digital transformation,” said Izumi Nagahori, head of the digital software and solutions business group at Fujitsu.

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, the need to develop a cure and vaccine for both current and future coronaviruses promoted the formation of Peptiaid. There were 120,169 cases in Japan as of Nov. 17, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Kawasaki, Japan-based Peptidream had already been using its Peptide Discovery Platform System (PDPS) to identify peptide candidates to treat COVID-19. The company is currently in discussions with several potential partners concerning the fastest development routes.

“Since April 2020, when Peptidream’s efforts to discover therapeutics for the treatment COVID-19 was announced publicly, a number of peptide candidate compounds have been successfully obtained,” said Keiichi Masuya, executive vice president at Peptidream. “We are now determined to advance these to preclinical and early stage clinical developments in the shortest possible time, so we can bring therapeutics for the treatment of coronavirus disease to the market as early as possible.

“We will also explore possible collaborations with pharmaceutical companies with expertise in late-stage clinical development in relevant regions.”

Peptiaid will obtain Peptidream’s COVID-19 candidate compounds to complete preclinical studies and advance them into clinical testing. The joint venture will also make use of Fujitsu’s Digital Annealer technology. Peptidream did not disclose the progress of the project so far or how future mutation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is taken into account.

For Fujitsu, the joint venture is a follow up to the R&D collaboration it entered with Peptidream in September 2019. The two companies will work on peptide drug discovery using the Digital Annealer technology, which uses computing architecture to solve combinatorial optimization problems, to further accelerate preclinical studies. In October, the companies identified a cyclic peptide in silico within 12 hours using the Digital Annealer technology.

Mizuho Capital will financially support Peptiaid through its Mizuho Life Science Fund No.1 LP fund, according the company.

Mizuho Life Science Fund No.1 LP was established in January with ¥5 billion. Its purpose is to support innovative companies working on the development of advanced medical care, with growing demand for advanced medical technology centered on infectious diseases due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Yusuke Omachi, president of Mizuho Capital. The fund’s capital was further increased to ¥10 billion in June.

While Takenaka and Kishida won’t take active roles in the joint venture, both companies will contribute their expertise. Kishida, which provides drug discovery and research services, will supply reagents, materials, and other contributions to the joint venture.

Takenaka is the general contractor that designed and constructed Peptidream’s headquarters building and laboratory. The goal to develop COVID-19 therapeutics as quickly as possible compelled Takenaka to join the Peptiaid joint venture, said the company’s president, Masato Sasaki.

Listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, Peptidream was founded on the back of research by University of Tokyo professor and company co-founder Hiroaki Suga in 2006. With 153 employees as of Sept. 31, it is best known for the PDPS system. The system enables the creation of highly diverse, non-standard peptide libraries with high efficiency for use in identifying potent and selective hit candidates that can be developed into peptide-based or small molecule-based therapeutics, the company said.

Two candidates being developed by Peptidream alongside New York-based Bristol Myers Squibb Co. are currently in phase I trials, but further details were not available. The company has 117 pipeline candidates, mostly at the discovery stage, with 40 at the target validation-to-hit stage, 54 at the hit-to-lead stage, 13 at the lead-to-GLP-tox stage, eight at the GLP-tox-to-IND stage and two at the phase I stage.

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