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As more healthcare providers and vendors continue working towards improving patient care using AI and data, Tel-Aviv-based, AI-powered drug discovery startup Protai claims it’s reshaping the drug discovery and development process using proteomics and an end-to-end AI-based platform. According to the company, its AI-powered platform maps the course and progression of disease at the protein level. This allows for better cost-effective drug discovery and development.

Protai noted in a recent press release that regardless of the contribution of genome-level information to the efforts of drug research and development, it fails to represent the functional layer of the cell reflected and dominated by proteins.

” This lack of functional understanding about a disease’s molecular mechanism is one of the major flaws of the current drug discovery, development and testing process,” Protai stated.

VentureBeat spoke with Kirill Pezner,

AI expert, who said that Protai applies AI and a data-centered approach in all it does. The company draws inspiration from “computational photography” techniques that are used in smartphone cameras for image enhancement features like HDR, 20x zoom, and night vision — applying similar ideas to the protein identification problem in the mass spectrometry process, according to Pevzner.

” We use the increased number of interactions and proteins we observe to gain explicable biology — predictions about how a network of proteins (humans or not) will behave under different conditions. Pevzner stated that this includes how they react to drugs.

Protai emerged from stealth mode with $8 million of seed funding to create a proteomics-based platform that allows for more precise and faster drug discovery. Grove Ventures and Pitango Venture Capital co-led the funding. It will allow Protai to develop its platform, accelerate its discovery processes, and strengthen its partnerships with pharmaceutical companies.

Beyond the research phase

Protai stated that its technology has advanced beyond the research phase. Pevzner stated that the company has already demonstrated a concept in lung cancer and identified valuable protein targets. These targets are being pursued in preclinical research, the company said.

This approach is intended to allow Protai increase the accuracy of drug discovery and improve development, saving time, and decreasing costs.

Protai claims that its approach is unique in the industry. It focuses on the protein level for diseases while other discovery platforms focus only on genetics (DNA/RNA) data. This is only a proxy of reality.

“Proteins are the core of biological action, said Pevzner.

Protai acts as a unique compass to guide drug discovery, said Eran Seger, Protai CEO. Eran Seger stated that the company is currently mapping proteins to discover new functional information which will enable it to identify therapeutic or diagnostic targets for complex diseases.

Market competition and collaboration opportunities

Protai is competing in AI-for-pharma and tool companies. However, Protai claims it is ahead of the pack by developing an internal pipeline for drug development that goes from discovery to clinical and preclinical stages.

Pevzner stated that Protai collaborates with pharmaceutical companies in joint projects with a focus cancer but will also consider expanding into neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases in the near future.

” The market can be divided into different types of players. Big pharma companies pursue the same disease areas and indications as us. Pevzner stated that they are open to collaboration and bring each company’s strengths to the table.