The life sciences and health technologies (LSHT) sector’s response to COVID-19 has been extraordinaryEarly into thepandemic, we witnessed organizations around the world—some direct competitors—teaming up to accelerate research into vaccines and treatments. Today, we continue to see significant collaboration throughout the sector, as organizations move discoveries out of the labs and into trials, and from trials into manufacturingdistribution, and administration. 

Scientists, software, and services fast-tracking drug discovery  

Here in Canada, many LSHT companies joined the pandemic response, including Montréal-based Molecular Forecaster (MFI), a computational chemistry company (and McGill University spin-off) with expertise in drug discovery, quantum mechanics, molecular dynamics, chemoinformatics, and artificial intelligence. MFI’s scientists, proprietary software, and contract-research services—for drug design and discovery, in silico screening, and molecular modeling—are helping reduce costs, expand capacity and capabilities, and fast-track preclinical pharmaceutical programs around the world. 

Computational approaches to move drug discovery from desktop to benchtop with speed and accuracy 

“COVID-19 has, in some ways, normalized an approach to drug discovery MFI has embraced for years: find ways to do the greatest good in the shortest time with the best tools available,” says Josh Pottel, MFI’s President and CEO. “The demand for expedited drug discovery around treatments and vaccines has meant huge demand for computational approaches like those we offer at the early stages of the discovery process.”  

The MFI team began working on an initial pandemic-response project in January 2020, before the alert was even sounded in Canada. Since that time, MFI’s work has expanded into other COVID-19-focused projects, with members of the team often donating their timedriven by a sense of duty to share their expertise and contribute in any way they can. Their work to advance COVID-19 research and projects continues to this day.   

One of Quebec’s most promising life sciences start-ups 

Molecular Forecaster opened its first office in 2018 as a resident company of the adMare BioInnovations Centera national life sciences and health technology innovation hub and incubator located in the Technoparc Montréal. Today, MFI is part of adMare’s Accelerate Québec Program which aims to develop the Province’s most promising life sciences start-ups and is delivered with the support of the Government of Québec and the City of Montreal.  

As the company continues to grow, Molecular Forecaster has just announced two new public-private partnerships and C$1 million in support of preclinical research targeting antibiotic-resistant bacteria and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.