The Achlys Professional Team

Drs. Michael Houghton, D. Lorne Tyrrell, Jack Tuszynski, Sergei Noskov and Henry Duff created Achlys to better predict hERG toxicity using in silico methods to save both lives and research dollars. The company quickly evolved into a toxicity testing toolbox for drug research and development with our initial products being targeted towards predicting cardiac toxicity in a priori manner.



Dr. Sergei Noskov

Dr. Noskov received his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from ISC, Russian Academy of Science working on method development for Molecular Dynamics simulations of complex phenomena in chemistry and biology. Part of his thesis work was done at the University of Innsbruck supported by the European Union graduate scholarship. He received post-doctoral training as American Epilepsy Foundation Fellow from the Department of Biochemistry and Structural Biology, Weill Medical College of Cornell University in the laboratory of Benoit Roux. In 2005, he joined the newly-formed Institute for Molecular Pediatric Sciences, University of Chicago as staff scientist before starting his own lab at the University of Calgary in 2006.

Sergei is Full Professor of Biophysical Chemistry and Biochemistry Research Cluster chair with the Centre for Molecular Simulations and Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary. His work on ion channels appeared in Nature, PNAS, J Biol Chem and other leading journals. Sergei is an Associate Editor for BBA-Biomembranes, Frontiers in Pharmacology (Ion Channels and Channelopahties section) and BMC Toxicology and Pharmacology. His work has been recognized by multiple awards including Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research Scholar, CIHR New Investigator and AIF New Faculty Awards (Canada), INTAS Young Scientist Award (European Union), and American Epilepsy Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellowship (USA).

Dr. Henry Duff

Dr. Henry Duff went to medical school at McGill, graduating in 1975. He took his specialty training in Adult Cardiology at the Toronto General Hospital. Dr. Duff then took further research training specific to the diagnosis and treatment of heart rhythm disturbances at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee. He returned to Calgary and joined the staff of the Foothills Hospital and University of Calgary in 1982. Dr. Duff continues an active practice and basic science research program related to the diagnosis and treatment of heart rhythm disturbances. He has completed sabbaticals in molecular medicine and ion channel physiology. Dr. Duff continues an active practice and basic science research program related to the diagnosis and treatment of heart rhythm disturbances. He studies the structure/function of the hERG potassium channel both in vitro and in vivo. He is developing new strategies to treat cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.

Dr. Michael Houghton

Michael Houghton is an internationally recognized expert in hepatitis virology. Working with researchers at worldleading blood diagnostics company Chiron and the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he was the first to successfully identify and clone the hepatitis C virus. The breakthrough allowed him to develop new bloodscreening tests now used worldwide to ensure safe blood supplies. His work also led to the identification of important new drug targets for hepatitis C, which are being pursued by groups around the world.

Houghton holds a PhD in biochemistry from King’s College London. Before becoming Canada Excellence Research Chair in Virology at the University of Alberta, he spent 25 years in a distinguished career in the USA at Chiron Corp & Novartis ultimately serving as Vice-President of HCV and virology research. In 2000, Houghton received the prestigious Albert Lasker Clinical Research Award for his work on hepatitis C performed with Drs Qui-Lim Choo & George Kuo.

Houghton has published more than 200 articles on topics critical to human health, including gene regulation, human beta interferons (proteins that interfere with the spread of viral infections) and hepatitis C and D viruses. He also holds numerous patents on recombinant human interferons, bacterial expression plasmids, and diagnostics, drug targets and vaccines for hepatitis C and D viruses.

Dr. Lorne Tyrrell

D. Lorne Tyrrell, OC, AOE, MD, PhD, FRCP, FRSC holds the GSK Chair in Virology in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Alberta. He is also the Founding Director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology. He has focused his research since 1986 on viral hepatitis. His work on the development of antiviral therapy was supported by CIHR and Glaxo Canada. It resulted in the licensing of the first oral antiviral agent to treat chronic hepatitis B infection – lamivudine – in 1998. Today, lamivudine is licensed in over 200 countries worldwide for the treatment of HBV.   He has also been involved in the establishment of a biotech company―KMT Hepatech Inc. based on the first non-primate animal model for HCV.

Dr. Tyrrell was the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry from 1994-2004. Since leaving the Deanship in 2004, Dr. Tyrrell has taken on a number of important board positions in healthcare in Alberta and Canada. These include the Chair of the Board of the Institute of Health Economics and the Chair of the Board of the Health Quality Council of Alberta (2003-2012). He is the Chair of the Gairdner Foundation Board and serves on the Research Advisory Council for the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and was recently appointed to the Science Advisory Board to Health Canada.

For his studies on viral hepatitis, Dr. Tyrrell has received numerous prestigious awards including the Gold Medal of the Canadian Liver Foundation (2000), the Alberta Order of Excellence (2000), Officer of the Order of Canada (2002), Fellow of the Royal Society (2004), FNG Starr Award of the Canadian Medical Association (2004), the Principal Award of the Manning Foundation (2005) and the Killam Prize (2015). He was awarded the University Distinguished Professorship at the University of Alberta and was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in April 2011.

Dr. Jack Tuszyński

Dr. Tuszyński obtained his Ph.D. in condensed matter physics in 1983 from the University of Calgary. From 1983 to 1988 he was a faculty member at the Department of Physics of the Memorial University of Newfoundland. He moved to the University of Alberta in 1988 as an assistant professor, between 1990 to 1993 he was an associate and then full professor at the Department of Physics. As of 2005 he has held the prestigious Allard Chair in Experimental Oncology at the Cross Cancer Institute where he leads an interdisciplinary computational drug discovery group. He held visiting professorship and research positions in China, Germany, France, Israel, Denmark, Belgium and Switzerland. He has published over 400 peer-reviewed journal papers, and 12 books. He delivered almost 400 scientific talks at conferences on five continents, half of which were invited presentations. He submitted 15 reports of invention, 21 patent applications and obtained 4 patents in the USA, South Korea, Japan and Singapore. Under his supervision 18 students received Ph.D. and 14 M.Sc. degrees. His research has been supported by over 90 research grants from Canadian, US and European funding agencies.

He is on the editorial board of almost 30 international journals including the Journal of Biological Physics. He is an Associate Editor of The Frontiers Collection, Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg.

Our Team

Dr. Barakat is the leader of a multidisciplinary world-class research team to develop novel immunotherapy drugs targeting the immune checkpoints' proteins. He received his PhD in biophysics from the University of Alberta in 2012 followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in Professor Michael Houghton’s Lab for two years. During his career, Dr. Barakat received numerous awards including the CIHR and AIHS postdoctoral fellowships, the prestigious UofA dissertation award, the ACRI Studentship and many distinction awards throughout his undergraduate and graduate studies. Dr. Barakat is also the editor of a number of journals.

Dr. Barakat’s research stands at the multidisciplinary interface of physics, biology and computer science. His major focus is on developing and applying state-of-the-art computational drug discovery tools to discover new antiviral and immunotherapeutic small molecule drugs. Throughout his research career, Dr. Barakat has made great contributions in understanding the nature and biophysical processes underlying protein-drug interaction, protein-protein interactions, protein-DNA interactions, drug off-target interactions and predicting drug-mediated toxicity.

Dr. Bhat has over 16 years of industrial and academia experience in research in several large and small biotech and academic research institutes. Dr. Bhat graduated with master’s degree in biochemistry from University of Pune, and obtained his Ph.D. from University of Leipzig, Germany working on protein-ligand binding and interaction using NMR from department of analytical Chemistry. In 2006, he joined as post-doctoral fellow at university of Vanderbilt and worked on basics of computational protein design and undertook a large scale mutagenesis project of homeobox domain gene (HOX) and vaccinia virus epitope discovery for vaccine design and development.

Dr. Bhat has experience in marketing, clinical trials, Vaccine and drug development, assay development, quality control of pharmaceutical and biotechnology drug products besides other technologies.

Xiaoqing Hou, is the Research Technologist at Achlys. She is an expert in screening chemical blockers of cardio ion channels (such as hERG and NaV1.5) in vitro using an automated patch-clamping system. This work supports completion of the computer program for predicting drug cardiotoxicity by providing biological IC50s. As part of the service, she is working on finding the IC50s in cardio ion channel expressing cell lines for specific drugs that are required from the customers.

Xiaoqing Hou completed her MSc (in Virology) in University of Alberta, 2011. Prior to working at Achlys, she worked as Research Assistant in Faulty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science for two years. Xiaoqing has been working with the automated patch-clamp system, since 2013. She has successfully screened the positive inhibitors for NaV1.5 and hERG channels using IonFlux 16 system.

Darren Hockman joins the Achlys team with over 25 years of basic research. He attained his BSc. in biochemistry from the University of Saskatchewan and has worked at the University of Saskatchewan, Western University, and the University of Alberta. Darren’s contribution is with the toxicology and cell line development and service group.

James Nieman received a Ph.D. (Organic Chemistry) from the University of Calgary. During a postdoctoral fellowship at University of British Columbia James discovered his passion for drug discovery. To grow his medicinal chemistry expertise, James accepted an industrial postdoctoral position at Pharmacia & Upjohn (Kalamazoo).

Upon completion of his industrial post-doctoral fellowship James was hired at the same company as a principal scientist and laboratory lead. For over 10 years he worked on small molecule drug discovery in multiple therapeutic areas at large pharmaceutical companies (Pharmacia and Pfizer) and with small biotechnology companies through a contract research organization.

In 2012, James started his own consulting company where he performed chemistry, business and drug discovery consulting services for multiple clients. It was through that consulting company that he began working with the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute (LKSAVI) at the University of Alberta. In July 2015, he transitioned to a full-time position with the LKSAVI as their Medicinal Chemist. James is an inventor on over 60 patents and patent applications and is an author or co-author of 20 scientific articles in international peers-reviewed journals.

Dr. Pagadala was awarded his Ph.D. in 2007 from the department of genetics at Osmania University, Hyderabad. He worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Katholike University, Leuven, Belgium and then as an assistant professor, in the Department of Biotechnology, Srikrishna Devaraya University, Anantapur, India. As a postdoc at the University of Alberta, he worked on ligand interactions with the prion protein which has led to new insights into the understanding of folding and aggregation of prion proteins into amyloid fibrils, development of new antiprion compounds and new lead compounds which will bind to the specific binding pockets and inhibit prion protein conversion and aggregation and understanding aggregation mechanisms at the atomic level for other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

Now a research associate at the UofA, he has been focusing on rational and computational drug design against bacterial toxins and viral targets, computational modelling of ion channels and cardiotoxicity prediction, as well as protein-protein interactions, RNA binding and vaccine development for Hepatitis C Virus. He has published 21 international papers in peer reviewed journals so far in the area of genomics, molecular modeling and computer aided drug design. His research plans focus on the opportunities at the intersection of computation and biology. In particular, he is interested in design of the drugs for various pathological diseases where 90% of potentially efficacious compounds failing at latter stages and continuing to apply computational drug discovery to pressing scientific problems.

Dr. Preto studied theoretical and mathematical physics at Aix-Marseille University where he obtained his PhD in 2012. He then moved to Rice University (Houston) for two years of postdoctoral fellowship in computational biophysics. His work was devoted to the development of new adaptive sampling techniques used to speed up molecular dynamics simulations of biomolecular systems.

Since 2015, he is working as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Alberta in Jack Tuszynski’s group. Most of his work is dedicated to improving computational free-energy and mode-of-binding predictions of protein-ligand complexes.

Dr. Soren Wacker studied physics the University of Hanover (Germany) before he moved to the University of Goettingen (Germany) to specialize in computational biophysics and molecular dynamics simulation. He pursued his doctorate about computer-aided drug design at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, focusing on structure based drug design for membrane channel proteins. Currently, he is conducting a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Calgary in Dr. Sergei Noskov’s lab, where he deepens his expertise in machine learning and data mining.

Philip Winter studied Computer Systems at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. Philip has expertise in Python programming, molecular docking and bioinformatics.

Philip has worked on Project CyberCell in the Ellison lab in the Department of Biochemistry and on drug discovery projects in the Tuszynski lab in the Department of Oncology at the University of Alberta. He has also been trained in ADMET prediction methods and in the use of high performance computing hardware such as the IBM's BlueGene.

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