AdAlta is a biotech company creating new medicines for diseases like fibrosis and cancer. They use a unique technology that produces small, antibody-like proteins to reach disease targets that traditional drugs can’t. Their main product aims to treat fibrotic diseases, and they are also working on cancer therapies and imaging tools to track treatment effectiveness.

PhD candidate, Joao Paulo Linhares Velloso (University of Queensland) was attracted to the APR.Intern program because it offered a unique opportunity to apply his academic knowledge in a real-world industry setting.

Image: Joao Paulo Linhares Velloso, APR Intern (supplied).

“The prospect of working with AdAlta, a company at the forefront of drug discovery and development, focusing on developing a treatment for fibrosis, targeting a G protein-coupled receptor was particularly appealing,” Joao said.

“The specific project involving the identification of Complementarity Determining Regions in antibodies and the development of a machine learning model for protein stability prediction aligned perfectly with my research expertise. I saw this as a chance to contribute to meaningful advancements in biopharmaceuticals while gaining valuable industry experience.”

Joao’s PhD at the University of Queensland was on computational biology which focused on understanding an important family of human receptor called G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). These receptors are responsible for about two-thirds of neurotransmitters, and hormones signalling. His research aimed to apply and develop new computational tools to support the elucidation of GPCRs structures, drug screening against GPCRs and how mutations on these receptors can lead to diseases in humans.

During Joao’s internship at Adalta, he worked on two projects. The first project involved developing a software for identifying Complementarity Determining Regions in antibodies. These regions are crucial for the interactions between antibodies and their interacting partners. AdAlta develop special antibodies that can attach themselves to receptors, such as G protein-coupled receptor, causing therapeutic effects on the human body. By creating an efficient software, Joao helped modernise the process of antibody characterisation, making it faster and more accurate.

The second project was the development of an artificial-intelligence based model to predict antibody stability. Stability is a critical factor for the effectiveness and shelf-life of therapeutic proteins. The model they developed used various antibody features to predict their stability, aiding in the selection and engineering of more stable antibody variants.

“My biggest achievements were developing the two mentioned tools, which have the potential to significantly enhance the efficiency of AdAlta’s drug development pipeline. Furthermore, throughout my internship, I was able to showcase the practical impact of artificial intelligence and bioinformatics on the development of better drugs.”

Joao’s contribution to research projects has provided AdAlta with novel tools to analyse and process sequences of potential therapeutic proteins. His work has also laid the foundations for the implementation of the artificial intelligence in AdAlta’s drug discovery process.

– Dr Khamis Tomusange and Dr Lukasz Kowalczyk, Senior Scientists at AdAlta

The practical work and research Joao completed at AdAlta has the potential to contribute to the development of more effective and stable therapeutic proteins, which can improve the quality of healthcare and patient outcomes. By enhancing the efficiency and precision of drug discovery processes, his contributions can help accelerate the development of new treatments for various diseases.

Joao Paulo Linhares Velloso holds a PhD in Computational Biology from the University of Queensland.

Joao was a recipient of the MTPConnect subsidy