By Carol Davies & Cecilia Li @cecilialicc

Bringing a drug to market today can take up to 12 years with a cost of $2.6 billion. What’s more concerning is that the cost is being passed on to consumers. Cyclica Inc., a Toronto-born, IT-based biotech startup, has made a major leap toward solving this problem, by applying its patented discovery - Ligand ExpressTM (a proprietary algorithm) to shorten drug discovery timelines.

Founded in 2013, Cyclica is the only biotech company currently on the market that uses a proteome-docking approach. Through its unique, patented Ligand ExpressTM technology platform, Cyclica holds the key to unlocking the door to faster, cheaper drug testing, and is already changing the way drugs are developed and tested.

Ligand ExpressTM allows Cyclica to provide insights on whether a drug is going to be safe and therapeutically beneficial. Its unique platform identifies the on- and off-target interactions of a drug, information that can be used to determine whether a drug will also result in side effects, toxicity or repurposing opportunities.“We flipped the problem on its head and came at it with a completely different strategy,” Naheed Kurji notes, the newly appointed President and CEO and former CFO of Cyclica. By docking a single drug into all known structurally characterized proteins, Ligand ExpressTM provides a whole new level of information that would otherwise not be attainable.

“We are the only company in the market that has commercialized that approach. We can bring down the cost of developing a drug in the magnitude of tens of millions of dollars,” Kurji emphasizes ,“This will benefit the end consumer by getting life-saving therapeutics into the hands of people who need them, quicker and more cost effectively than ever before.”

In streamlining the early drug discovery process, Cyclica can help its clients make better decisions in the drug discovery phase on which drugs to move forward with to clinical trials and, in later stages, on how to save a drug that has been deemed safe, but potentially ineffective for the original use and repurpose it for a different disease.

Cyclica has recently collaborated with Dr. James Dowling of The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto. This collaboration is fostered to support Dr. Dowling’s research on a rare neuromuscular disorder, myotubular myopathy (MTM). MTM is a rare genetic disease that afflicts about 1 out of every 50,000 newborn males worldwide, and that currently has no existing treatment and cure for it.

As a leading authority on the diagnosis and management of congenital myopathies, Dr. Dowling will use Cyclica’s computational proteome docking platform, Ligand Express™, to explore potential therapies for the muscle weakness caused by MTM. The project is funded by Myotubular Trust, a charitable organization that promotes the study of, and research into, the treatment and cure of MTM.

Cyclica has also completed a $2.4 Million Series A1 financing in September, 2016. The syndicated round was led by Toronto-based Greensky through the Greensky Accelerator Fund I, LP, with additional investment from both existing and new investors, including the China Canada Angel Alliance, and the family of Mr. Anthony Griffiths. The funds will enable Cyclica to scale up its sales and marketing efforts, and expand innovation through continued product development.

The young company has high ambitions, boundless confidence and a laser sharp strategic plan that Naheed Kurji, says, if all goes as planned, will put the company at the top of its field as the ‘go to’ company for accessing critical biological data through its bioinformatics platform.

Although Cyclica’s client base, key decision-makers at pharmaceutical companies, primarily reside in Cambridge, Massachusetts, San Diego, North Carolina or globally, Cyclica is still a proud Canadian company headquartered in Toronto.

From an economic business perspective, Toronto is the ideal location for Cyclica. Since Cyclica is rooted in biotechnology, bioinformatics and computational biology, the beltline between the University of Waterloo and Queen’s University is one of the best areas in the world for this type of knowledge. Toronto, being strategically positioned at the centre point between these two regions, also provides access to institutions like MaRS, the OCE and the Toronto Health Network, as well as being an international hub with easy access to important U.S. and global markets.

Kurji also cites Toronto as one of the best places for tax incentives, grants and other government support. “The Canadian ecosystem is becoming more and more supportive of startups, and we are constantly receiving interest from industry partners, investors and customers.”

Aside from geographical advantage and local policy support, Cyclica is also armed with scientific and commercial case studies, validation notes and a strong story. It is currently in discussions with a number of organizations and academic institutions, including the University of Toronto, as well as small, mid-cap and large pharma, as part of a strategy to infiltrate the market through pilot projects and longer engagement.

With all of this in place and through further commercialization of its discovery, Cyclica is well positioned to move rapidly toward achieving its vision of addressing one of the world’s biggest unmet medical needs: enabling global access to safer and more effective medicine.

To learn more about Cyclica Inc. and review its case studies and validation notes, visit: