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Kurt Herpel: Revolutionizing Drug Discovery Through Artificial Intelligence

Kurt Herpel | Delta 4 GmbH
Delta 4 GmbH | Kurt Herpel | CEO

AI has unraveled unlimited possibilities in the way drugs are being discovered due to its ability to analyze vast reams of data, uncover patterns and relationships, and predict effects; helping scientists to develop viable drug targets faster, efficiently, and cost-effectively. Unlike the traditionally time-consuming methods that involve many different grueling stages and series of actions from Early Drug Discovery, Pre-Clinical Phase, Clinical Phases and Regulatory Approval –that could take more than ten (10) years to develop a new drug from discovery to approval–, AI is promising a future that is full of actionable hope, with increased probability of success.

Today, the science and art of drug discovery have advanced beyond one’s expectations as a result of the implementation of Artificial Intelligence techniques—to not only discover new drugs—but also identify new indications for existing drugs with potential therapeutic values, that could help scientists develop better medicines faster, optimize cost, and human resources —and thus improve millions of people’s lives.

While there are several diseases with little to no treatment cure options, Kurt Herpel, the CEO of Delta 4 GmbH is dedicated to accelerating new treatment options and improving the health of patients through the use of AI proprietary computational analytics platform to identify breakthrough drug candidates. In partnership with healthcare institutions, he offers the opportunity to combine their technology with the client’s knowledge to develop treatments faster.

Using expert R&D and unique methodology to the core, Kurt Herpel has led Delta 4 GmbH, an AI drug discovery biotech company that utilizes Hyper-C, an AI-powered platform—to discover the undetected relationship between drugs with known safety profiles and diseases—and identify new indications. By operating the platform with a team of highly skilled medical and computational biologists, they can analyze and produce insights and opportunities for new therapy options that are cost-effective and time-saving for improved patient treatment.

Let’s learn more about Kurt’s AI measures in supporting drug discovery at Delta 4 GmbH.

Kurt’s Inspiration for AI in Drug Development

It all started with a spark of curiosity that gradually grew into a love for technology and a deep passion to help people. Kurt has spent the majority of his career in the pharmaceutical industry, a large part of it with Merck & Co/MSD. The whole time, his goal has always been to help patients, particularly those afflicted with orphan diseases because it’s a very under-served segment.

As he puts it, Kurt was around long before AI was as capable as it is today, but the prospect of using AI to improve the development of treatments was an exciting one. Initially, for Kurt, it was a very abstract concept, almost like science fiction. But this was several years ago. Over time, as his career evolved, and technology improved, it became more and more concrete.

Although Kurt was involved with several other jobs and initiatives—but to make a long story short—they eventually led him to Delta4. There, Kurt and his team worked hard to combine the best of AI and the talent of the team to discover new drugs and indications for existing drugs for rare diseases. “As you can imagine, I’m quite happy to have aligned my professional mission so closely with my personal one,” adds Kurt.

The Need for Developing Effective Treatments

As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, the quality of care for patients is also improving, thanks in part to advances in drug discovery and development. From more effective treatments to improved delivery systems, the healthcare industry is making strides to deliver more targeted and effective treatments for its patients.

Developing effective treatments is immensely difficult and very expensive. “Recently, all of us had some experience with this as we saw, and are still seeing, how difficult COVID has been to corral. Despite teams dedicated to it around the world, it still required a considerable amount of time, funding, and resources to create a vaccine. It was a nearly unprecedented achievement to have created it so quickly, which puts into context just how challenging the process is,” adds Kurt.

A relatively recent development that is changing the game in this regard is the advancement and implementation of artificial intelligence to not only discover new drugs but also identify new indications for existing drugs.

Role of AI in the Drug Discovery Process

Kurt believes that Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most promising areas of innovation, offering the potential to revolutionize the way drugs are discovered and developed. In the traditional drug discovery process, scientists use a trial-and-error approach to identify potential drug compounds that show therapeutic potential. The process is guided by extraordinary amounts of research, experience and brilliant minds, and to this point has yielded great advancements. However, it’s still very time-consuming, and in the case of diseases that are devastating but don’t affect a large portion of the population, prohibitively expensive.

But AI is transforming the drug discovery process by enabling scientists to quickly and accurately identify drug compounds with potential therapeutic value. AI can review vast quantities of data, uncover subtle relationships, generate models and iteratively test variations, highlight safety issues, and do more in a few weeks than a human team could do in a lifetime.

“However, we’re not yet to the point where AI can reliably do this on its own. The process still requires human intellect to verify results and guide the process and outcomes. It’s something we do uniquely well at Delta4, we marry the best of AI and human ingenuity to produce uncommon results,” adds Kurt.

R&D Operations at the Company

When most of the company’s activities stem from an AI-powered drug discovery platform, R&D is pretty much a constant aspect of its operation. “We’re always trying to advance our platform Hyper-C, so that we can offer more applications, repositioning approaches, and do each better, faster and more accurately. It’s the only way to stay at the forefront of this space. However, all of this is just what happens within the platform. That’s an invaluable piece of the process but it’s still only a piece,” says Kurt.

When most of the company’s activities stem from an AI-powered drug discovery platform, R&D is pretty much a constant aspect of its operation. “We’re always trying to advance our platform Hyper-C, so that we can offer more applications, repositioning approaches, and do each better, faster and more accurately. It’s the only way to stay at the forefront of this space. However, all of this is just what happens within the platform. That’s an invaluable piece of the process but it’s still only a piece,” says Kurt.

Hyper-C—a Key Instrument to Drug Discovery

Delta4’s platform, Hyper-C, is a key instrument in pioneering AI to revolutionize the healthcare industry. “In more concrete terms, you’ll see this as we develop new drugs faster, identify new indications for existing drugs while also increasing their effectiveness, and most importantly, achieve this while improving drug safety by providing more information on potential drug interactions, side effects, and risks,” adds Kurt.

“Everything I mentioned, we are already doing. But we continue to improve Hyper-C to make it faster, more efficient, and more effective. At Delta4, we’re aggressively moving toward a future where we can help all patients, including ones with rare diseases.”

The Challenge of Access to Resources

One of the challenges of science, and not just in biotech but in general, is access to resources. In many areas, the industry has advanced to a point where to further research, one needs very expensive equipment—supercomputers, particle accelerators, quantum computers, and related.

“In varying degrees, our field is no different. So for us, it’s important to give others access to our AI platform to further their initiatives,” highlights Kurt. He thus partners with pharmaceutical companies and universities so that other brilliant minds can leverage the power of his AI platform. “This is something that we’re quite proud of as it helps accelerate the progress of new research, discoveries, treatments, and, ultimately, the advancement of the healthcare sector.”

Opportunities for Growth

Delta4’s biggest challenge has also been the source of much of Kurt’s innovation and has brought the company more opportunities. Thankfully, building up the company has been a very smooth process. Kurt and his team have been able to combine people, processes and technology effectively and seamlessly.

His attention is now on scaling up to aggressively develop Delta4’s pipeline. However, doing so requires securing additional funding and with a global recession looming, this is a bit more challenging than usual.

At the same time, this temporary dearth of resources has motivated him to think outside the box and find innovative strategies to streamline Delta4’s processes so that Kurt and his team are uncompromisingly geared toward bringing shortlisted compounds into clinical testing.

The company has also been able to leverage grant opportunities and use this time to get laser-focused on driving higher quality and differentiating its offering to attract clients. It’s been a very successful approach and Kurt has been very pleased with the results.

Advice to the Budding Enthusiasts

The healthcare sector is a big space with a lot of different opportunities and work. It’s also a very difficult space. In that, the challenges are large and rife with complexity. “The setbacks are painful because we’re dealing with people, often in sensitive conditions, and in many cases, hefty hopes are hanging on the outcomes,” mentions Kurt.

“So, my advice would be to make sure that you are passionate about helping people. At our company, we have people from many different backgrounds, with experience in varying fields. But if there is one thing we all have in common it’s that—every day we come into work excited that today could be the day we make a breakthrough that improves the quality of patients’ lives around the world. And if it doesn’t happen today, we’re excited that we’re a bit closer to helping them tomorrow.”

Looking Ahead

Kurt believes that the year 2023 is an exciting one for the company. “We have a planned Series-B investment that we will utilize to zealously advance our in-silico pipeline into the clinical phase. We have several fascinating assets in our pipeline that we’re certain will yield wonderful and lucrative opportunities,” highlights Kurt.

“We are also ramping up our sales effort to grow our work with pharmaceutical companies. Pharma companies are interested in leveraging our platform, Hyper-C, for a variety of different objectives. During these projects, our team uses the platform to conduct research and/or asset development on behalf of a client. For us, they are beneficial because they allow us to continue to refine our process and algorithms and yield revenue that we can reinvest into our pipeline.”

“Between these two initiatives, we’re very excited about everything we will accomplish in 2023 and how it will position us for continued success next year,” he concludes.

About the CEO

In His Own Words

“It’s truly a privilege to get to be the CEO of such a talented team. I think for most CEOs, there is a large list of functions and activities that fall into the role, but in general, my most important function is to help define our mission and strategy and then ensure that all of our initiatives, efforts and activities are in alignment.

My background in business and the experience that I have in the industry makes me a bit unique in the field. Many of the leaders in this space are scientists or come from a technological background. Of course, each background, including mine, has its pros and cons. One benefit of coming from a business background is that I tend to have a sharper focus on driving the assets we’re developing to clinical testing as soon as safely possible, so we can get them to market faster.

Fortunately, I can take that approach because of the vast amount of scientific and technological expertise my team brings to the table. I am truly surrounded by a wealth of highly intelligent and capable people. It helps make my job a lot easier.”

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