WALTHAM, Mass. & MONTREAL, July 20, 2021 – Ventus Therapeutics, Inc., a biotechnology company using rational structure-based drug design to advance a pipeline of small molecule medicines for high value targets, today announced that the company has augmented its team with three experts in scientific computing and computational chemistry. Dan McKay, MSc, is promoted to the role the Head of Computational Chemistry; Vibhas Aravamuthan, PhD, is joining the company as Director of Scientific Computing; and Professor Tom Kurtzman, PhD, of Lehman College, City University of New York, will join the Ventus Scientific Advisory Board. The company also announced that it has exclusively licensed the Ordered Rank Clustering (ORC) computational technology to integrate into its ReSOLVE ™ platform.
“We are pleased to assemble a world-class team in computational chemistry and science. With the depth and expertise of our computational technology team combined with our differentiated ReSOLVE platform, Ventus is uniquely enabled to pursue many attractive therapeutic targets that historically could not be addressed by small molecules,” said Marcelo Bigal, MD, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of Ventus.
“The expansion of our stellar scientific and computational team solidifies Ventus’ position at the forefront of structure-based drug design,” added Michael Crackower, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer of Ventus. “In addition, we are very excited to exclusively license the Ordered Rank Clustering technology to integrate into our ReSOLVE platform, giving us an unmatched understanding of protein conformations and enables the highest resolution for rational drug design to address many of the most challenging drug targets.”
Dan McKay, MSc, Head of Computational Chemistry for Ventus: McKay has over 24 years of drug discovery experience in the biopharmaceutical industry, including previous roles with Novartis and the Merck Frosst Centre for Therapeutic Research. He is co-author of over 45 publications and more than 24 patents. After receiving his BSc in Chemistry and MSc in Theoretical Chemistry from Carleton University in Professor James Wright’s group, he joined computational chemistry expert Christopher Bayly, PhD in 1997 on initiatives to apply molecular dynamics to biological systems. This triggered his research interest in achieving an underlying atomic-level understanding of biochemistry, which led to groundbreaking work in the area of solvation analysis with biochemical systems.
Importantly, McKay has developed the Ordered Rank Clustering (ORC) technology which Ventus has secured through an exclusive license for drug discovery applications. Unlike other tools currently in use in structure-based drug design to cluster proteins into structurally related conformations, ORC is not limited by arbitrary parameters or scale. Consequently, ORC enables a completely unbiased selection of the optimal protein conformations for small molecule binding, thereby obviating the need to resort to riskier therapeutic modalities to create new medicines. Ventus has integrated ORC into its ReSOLVE ™ platform, a computational platform designed to reveal novel druggable pockets for validated targets that have previously eluded small molecule drug discovery efforts.
Vibhas Aravamuthan, PhD, Director of Scientific Computing for Ventus: Dr. Aravamuthan has over 30 years of experience in the areas of high-performance computing, applied mathematics, parallel algorithm design, numerical modeling, and machine learning. Prior to joining Ventus, he worked at the Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research in computer-aided drug design, imaging, and parallel algorithm design. Previously, Dr. Aravamuthan served in the research faculty at Louisiana State University. He was one of the principal members involved in setting up the Center for Computation and Technology, a high-performance computing facility at LSU. He holds a BTech in Civil Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai, India and a PhD in engineering with a major in civil engineering and a minor in computer science from Louisiana State University.
Tom Kurtzman, PhD, Member of Scientific Advisory Board for Ventus: Dr. Kurtzman is a faculty member at Lehman College, City University of New York, where his research focuses on the development of computational methods that aid in the discovery and rational design of new drugs. Professor Kurtzman’s approach applies a combination of statistical mechanical theory and computer simulations to better understand the physical principles governing the molecular recognition between proteins and small molecule drug candidates. His research contributions provide a framework to account for and quantify the role that water plays in molecular recognition. Dr. Kurtzman’s honors and awards include the OpenEye Outstanding Junior Faculty Award from the Computational Chemistry Division of the American Chemical Society. Dr. Kurtzman earned a bachelor of arts degree in chemistry from the University of California, Santa Cruz, a doctor of philosophy degree in chemistry from Stanford University, and pursued postdoctoral research at Columbia University.
About Ventus Therapeutics
Ventus Therapeutics is a biopharmaceutical company discovering and developing novel small-molecule medicines by pioneering new frontiers in structure-based drug discovery for biologically validated, but elusive, drug targets. Using two platforms – Structural Immunology and ReSOLVE™ – we are rapidly advancing a pipeline of new medicines to treat autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases and cancer. Our most advanced programs are enabled by our Structural Immunology platform, which unlocks rational, structure-based drug discovery for critical targets in innate immune pathways. Our ReSOLVE platform reveals novel druggable sites for traditionally undruggable targets, enabling us to expand our pipeline into oncology and neurology. Ventus was founded by Versant Ventures and the management team includes experienced biopharmaceutical executives and scientists who have delivered multiple approved medicines, as well as luminary academics across structural biology, immunology and computational chemistry. The company has locations in Boston, Massachusetts and Montreal, Canada. For more information, please visit www.ventustx.com and engage with us on Twitter @VentusTx or on LinkedIn.
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