Sekkei: Designing & Developing Medicines With Global Values

Dr. Anand Khedkar, Dr. Monalisa Chatterji & Dr. Anirudh Ranganathan, Directors

Dr. Anand Khedkar, Dr. Monalisa Chatterji & Dr. Anirudh Ranganathan

Directors

The Indian pharmaceutical industry is recognized as a global leader in the production of high-quality generic drugs and ranks third in terms of manufacturing pharmaceutical products by volume. According to a report published in Drug Discovery World (DDW), India has become a key player in the global pharmaceutical sector. The value of its part in this industry is expected to reach $120 billion by 2030. Its list of credentials is impressive and according to Invest India this market has a 20 percent share in generic global medicines by volume, 60,000 generic brands across 60 therapeutic areas, and supplies 62 percent of the global demand for vaccines. This has therefore led to the exponential growth of companies. Some such companies are now venturing into discovery and development of drugs. Bengaluru-based, Sekkei is an example of one such company.

Sekkei builds innovative disease-agnostic technologies that can shorten the discovery and development process and open up new avenues for therapeutics by moving away from brute-force. Beyond efficacy and safety, the company tries to incorporate cost-effectiveness, scalability, delivery routes and thermostability in order to make molecules that could reach every patient.

In an exclusive interview with Pharma Industry Outlook, Monalisa Chatterji, Co-founder of Sekkei takes us through the foundation journey of her firm and shares interesting insights.

How is Sekkei positioned in the drug discovery market?

At Sekkei, we strive to be a world class biopharmaceutical company focusing on discovery and development of novel differentiated medicines to address global unmet needs. We believe rational design using innovative technological tools can create improved medicines that are globally relevant. With Sekkei, we have made it our mission to discover differentiated, cost-effective and accessible solution for some of the biggest healthcare challenges of the world today namely, diabetes and its related complications, opioid addition and infectious diseases that could lead to pandemics.

Tell us about the key specifications of Sekkei Bio’s powerful technology platforms.

Sekkei Bio’s powerful technology platforms include in silico design and messenger RNA technology. The company’s powerful and flexible in silico technology platform consists of a suite of independent workflows for novel molecule design. It consists of module for peptide & protein design (Sq-PROT), module for small-molecule design (Sq-SYNT), and module for immunogenicity assessment of peptides & proteins (Sq-AIMM). The design engine works by combining physics-based workflows with statistics-driven approaches to create a tailored pipeline that is specific to the problem at hand. The tailored pipeline enables the platform to perform the multiparametric optimization task required for delivering high confidence candidates with properties aligned to the desired Target product profile.

The first-generation mRNA created at Sekkei were similar to comparator products in order to be able to show a PoC for design and manufacturing. Unfortunately, countries such as India were not able to access mRNA technology for SARS-CoV2 vaccines due to specific challenges. Hence, we are currently working on second generation RNA technology platform that can overcome the cost, supply-chain, and stability hurdles, in order to create a worldwide access. We at Sekkei, are also moving beyond vaccines and into biologics in order to reduce the cost burden of potentially life-saving medications like monoclonal antibodies by converting them into mRNA.

Walk us through the growth of your company since its inception.

Our journey started with a desire to design differentiated molecules that impacts patient’s lives. We applied for BIRAC Ignition Grant (BIG) to carry out rationale novel insulin design. Insulin has been on the WHO’s List of Essential Medicines since 1977 but the promise of equitable access still remains unfinished. Less than 50 percent patients fail to achieve target HbA1c levels due to fear of injections, non-physiological delivery and high cost due to requirement of cold chain during transportation and storage. The first application of Sq-PROT was designing best in class novel insulin analogs suitable to be given as a pill. An oral insulin will increase the convenience and help initiate insulin treatment earlier in the treatment continuum. We have now extended the applications to thermostable insulin and insulin-Glp1 dual agonists. We have also used our design tool to create novel non-opioid dual targeting analgesics with a potential to be used for both acute and chronic pain conditions. People suffering with diabetic neuropathy, one of the most prevalent complications for diabetes, could benefit from the novel analgesics. In a nutshell, today, we have ready-to-use, differentiated computational design platform (Sq-Suite) for small-molecule and novel biologics design.

At Sekkei, we believe rational design can take global applicability into account, contributing towards equitable health

Dr. Anand Khedkar, Dr. Monalisa Chatterji & Dr. Anirudh Ranganathan, Directors

In 2021, we all witnessed the strength of mRNA technology as Covid 19 vaccines emerged. The world also witnessed the inequities associated with accessing the vaccines. At Sekkei, we decided to establish the technology in-house and in-country. We learnt the technology by developing two linear SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine candidates akin to Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna. As described earlier, we are now evolving this platform to make the technology globally affordable & accessible. At the same time, we are moving beyond vaccines and harnessing mRNA technology to provide accelerated development paths towards lifesaving, affordable biologics.

Elaborate on the Sekkei's disease-agnostic technologies.

Technology development in Sekkei is focused on innovative platforms that enable discovery and development of therapeutics and vaccines. Our technologies are built to address difficult global healthcare challenges. The team at Sekkei believes rational design can significantly decrease time and cost for discovery of novel candidate medicine. It also allows inclusive design, taking all geographies in consideration right from the start, ultimately leading to products that potentially impacts patient’s lives across the glove. We are passionate about contributing towards a world where medicines are designed for and accessible to all. Our vision is to build largely disease-agnostic technologies that can shorten the discovery process, allow larger chemical space exploration and open up new therapeutics by moving away from brute-force. Beyond efficacy and safety, we try to incorporate cost-effectiveness, scalability, delivery routes and thermostability during design.

What is the future roadmap for Sekkei?

Well, first, I would love for each of our products to be partnered in the next 5 years and for the Sekkei team to be recognized for innovation globally. We are slowly getting into the aspects of business development and are looking to build partnerships.

Another underlying drive for setting up Sekkei, is to grow next generation of innovators who are bold and passionate to bring their creativity to the field of drug and vaccines. Our vision is to improve human health by developing drugs and vaccines that are designed for all.

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