‘One size doesn’t fit all’ in AI cardio breakthrough to address nearly 18 million deaths annually
Image credit: Andrew Lunn Photography
A precision medicine platform with data at its centre has won this year’s annual SCI Bright SCIdea competition. CardiaTec, the winning University of Cambridge alumni team, was presented with the award at the SCI (Society of Chemical Industry) offices this week. The team, consisting of co-founders Raphael Peralta, Thelma Zablocki and Namshik Han, explained to the judges how their drug discovery tool can help fight the global problem of 17.8 million deaths a year from cardiovascular disease. At present in the UK, only £9 per person goes to cardiovascular research and development, one third the investment in oncology. CardiaTec’s next generation therapeutic model should help redress this imbalance.
The annual SCI Bright SCIdea challenge was open to international entries for the first time this year, with entries for the top prize and the poster competition coming from as far afield as Indonesia Peru, Brazil and Germany. Teams of 3 – 4 university students (both undergraduates and postgraduates) were asked to develop a business plan for a product or service that could be commercialised to benefit society. The judging panel consisted of Sarah Skerratt, SVP, Head of Drug Discovery, CHARM Therapeutics, Victor Christou, Partner at YFM Equity Partners, Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne, Founder, Genius Foods and Chair, Scotland Food and Drink and Robin Harrison, VP, Platform Technology and External Innovation, Synthomer.
“There is a ‘one size fits all’ treatment approach to cardio-vascular disease currently,” said Raphael, “with every person who has an acute heart attack treated the same way, but this needs to change if we are to address this increasing problem. CardiaTec is working to improve our understanding of the disease, revealing its underpinning biological pathways for novel target discovery. For example, half of all heart attacks occur in people with normal cholesterol. Also, much is known about the impact of lipids on the disease, but what about inflammation? CardiaTec is the first company to specialise in the early stage of drug discovery in cardiovascular disease – responding to the NHS’s call to tackle this killer and reduce the burden on public health. Tailoring this platform is what makes us different.”
The £5,000 Bright SCIdea award will now help the team to complete its fundraising round and further develop the technology.
According to judge Sarah Skerratt, CardiaTec’s winning formula was “a highly innovative approach to identifying therapeutics for a key area of unmet medical need – all delivered and executed really well. “
During the event, Team Metallogen, 2020 Bright SCIdea winners, were presented with the award in person by SCI Chair of Trustees, Harry Swan. Covid-19 restrictions had meant this could not happen in person previously.
Sharon Todd, SCI CEO, explained that:
“The role of SCI is to accelerate scientific innovation into industry for the benefit of society and the winning team demonstrates just that. It also illustrates how multidisciplinary approaches are critical to providing the next generation of precision medicines. CardiaTec’s winning entry relates to SCI’s goal of addressing the global challenge of health and wellbeing for all. SCI is also a global innovation hub so I was delighted to see young scientists from around the world use the event for networking and collaboration.”
The 2022 Bright SCIdea winners in full:
- CardiaTec – University of Cambridge alumni – an AI drug discovery company specialising in cardiovascular disease
- Happy BioPatch – Oxford University and Manchester University – entering ‘a wearable gadget which continuously monitors cortisol levels aiming to prevent serious consequences as a result of stress’
- Unmasked – University of Durham – this team is ‘tackling the UK energy crisis by producing insulation materials from disposable face masks’
The 2022 Bright SCIdea Poster Competition winners:
- Vo & Airro - Imperial College London & Royal College of Art
- GenomAbs – University College Dublin, Copenhagen Business School, Open University of Catalunya and University of Barcelona
- Aruna – Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Leibniz University Hannover, The Technical University of Central Hesse Friedberg, and Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia.