Mar 10

IRICoR and Valence Announce AI Drug Design Collaboration

6 min read

IRIC, IRICoR, Université de Montréal, and Valence Discovery collaborate to design novel drug candidates for the treatment of levodopa-induced dyskinesia in Parkinson’s disease patients


A leading researcher at Université de Montréal will leverage IRICoR’s expertise in accelerating drug discovery projects and Valence’s AI-enabled platform to design highly selective drug candidates against a newly identified target.


MONTREAL and CAMBRIDGE, Mass., March 10, 2021 -- IRICoR, a pan-Canadian drug discovery and research commercialization centre, Université de Montréal (UdeM), the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) of the Université de Montréal, and Valence Discovery (“Valence”), an emerging leader in AI-enabled drug design, today announced a collaboration focused on the discovery of novel drug candidates for the treatment of levodopa-induced dyskinesia in Parkinson’s disease.


Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease with the prevalence of one in 100 people over the age of 60, or around five million people worldwide. Of these patients, almost all receive levodopa (also known as L-Dopa), a dopamine precursor that enables patients to reinitiate normal movement. Although this treatment offers relief of the major motor symptoms, in a majority of patients, prolonged levodopa use leads to abnormal involuntary movements called levodopa-induced dyskinesia, which can be highly debilitating. Levodopa-induced dyskinesia occurs with an average latency of around six years and affects 95% of all patients within 15 years of chronic L-Dopa treatment. Current treatments for this condition are not universally effective, have only transient efficacy, and are associated with side effects including fainting, dizziness, and hallucinations.


The collaboration builds on research from the team of Dr. Daniel Levesque, Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies of the Faculty of Pharmacy at UdeM, and focuses on the design of highly selective modulators of the Nur77/RXR nuclear receptor complex, a promising new pharmacological target for movement disorders. Through co-funding from IRICoR and the Partenariat-UdeM program and with oversight of the project from IRICoR, scientists in the Drug Discovery Unit at IRIC will rapidly advance selected hits through lead optimization. The research team will leverage Valence’s machine learning platform for few-shot learning, generative chemistry, and multiparameter optimization to address critical challenges in lead optimization through the design of novel, highly selective drug candidates against the Nur77/RXR target, presenting a new pharmacological approach to managing the limitations of current treatments.


“We are extremely pleased to have Valence’s support on this important drug discovery program, and are confident that our joint efforts will significantly accelerate our path to identifying novel compounds that can treat levodopa-induced dyskinesia, a serious side effect of the most common treatment for Parkinson’s disease,” says Dr. Levesque.


“We’re thrilled to be working with Dr. Levesque and the world-class team at IRIC, who have an extensive track record of collaborating with leading industry partners including BMS, Ipsen, and Merck.” says Daniel Cohen, CEO of Valence Discovery. “This collaboration is an important example of how we’re bringing modern machine learning methods, custom-built for drug discovery, to innovative R&D organizations of all shapes and sizes.”


“This collaboration is a testament to IRICoR’s commitment to investing in high-potential projects for indications with high unmet medical need, while staying at the cutting edge of drug discovery by combining an impressive array of homegrown technologies at the intersection of machine learning, chemistry, and biology,” says Dr. Steven Klein, Vice President of Business Development at IRICoR. “We are extremely excited about what we’ve seen from the team at Valence and look forward to exploring future partnerships across IRICoR’s broader portfolio of discovery programs.”

About Valence Discovery

Valence Discovery is committed to unlocking the true potential of deep learning in drug design by unifying best-in-class deep learning technologies with intuitive infrastructure to make these technologies more broadly accessible to R&D organizations of all sizes. Valence’s AI-enabled drug design platform has been extensively validated and is currently being used to identify and design drug candidates in collaboration with industry-leading partners. The company is pioneering the application of few-shot learning in drug design and is developing and deploying novel machine learning methods for molecular property prediction, generative chemistry, and multiparameter optimization. Valence (formerly InVivo AI) was founded in 2018, is advised by deep learning pioneer, Dr. Yoshua Bengio, and is proudly headquartered in Montreal at Mila, the world’s largest deep learning research institute, with an office in Cambridge, Mass. To learn more, please visit:

About IRIC

An ultra-modern research hub and training centre located in the heart of the Université de Montréal, the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer of the Université de Montréal was created in 2003 to shed light on the mechanisms of cancer and discover new, more effective therapies to counter this disease. The IRIC operates according to a model that is unique in Canada. Its innovative approach to research has already led to discoveries that will, over the coming years, have a significant impact on the fight against cancer. For more information:

About IRICoR

Designated as a Centre of Excellence in Research and Commercialization (CECR) by the Canadian government and based at the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) of the Université de Montréal, IRICoR is a pan-Canadian leader in the de-risking of early-stage assets in the field of drug discovery. IRICoR's mandate is to accelerate the discovery, development, and commercialization of novel therapies in cancer and rare diseases. Since 2008, IRICoR has been successfully investing in and supporting selected high-value projects in order to rapidly translate early-stage innovation into potential new therapies, through either co-development partnerships with the biopharmaceutical industry or the creation of spin-off companies. IRICoR seamlessly combines its business-related expertise with access to industry-level drug discovery capabilities, providing selected academic and industry projects with access to its network of experts and cutting-edge infrastructure, including one of the largest academia-based drug discovery unit in Canada. IRICoR's major funding sources include the federal CECR Program, th eMinistère de l'Économie et de l'Innovation du Québec (MEI), and collaborative partnerships with the biopharmaceutical industry. For more information about IRICoR:

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