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Former Wickersley student Aaron Morris, now CEO of PostEra describes his journey after leaving Wickersley School and how his new company is helping in the fight against COVID-19.
After finishing at Wickersley in 2010 I completed my undergraduate degree in Mathematics at Durham University before studying a Masters degree in Applied Mathematics at Oxford University. After graduating from Oxford I then worked at Goldman Sachs in London for 5 years until October 2019. In October last year myself and 2 friends decided to start a new company which we called PostEra.
What is PostEra? Visit the PostEra Website
PostEra uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to discover new pharmaceutical drugs. Currently it takes around 10 years and $1.5bn to get a new treatment to patients and we believe technology can help reduce this. Members of our team pioneered state-of-the-art algorithms which can design, make and test new drugs much faster and more accurately than traditional methods and we use these algorithms to help companies and drug hunters find more cures for more diseases. As a company our work was spotted by a leading program in California called Y Combinator (YC). YC selects 200 of the most promising new companies from around the world, mentors them in Silicon Valley and guides them to have the greatest impact on society. After PostEra was accepted into YC we moved to California at the start of 2020 for an intense 3 month programme. During the last month of the program the COVID outbreak became very serious. However we realised that our technology could be of use in combating the COVID outbreak and this initiated the COVID Moonshot project.
What is COVID Moonshot? covid.postera.ai/covid
PostEra is now helping lead an international team of scientists who are working together to find an antiviral cure for the virus – this is the COVID Moonshot project. Earlier this year, a team of scientists in China, Israel and the UK worked together to find a few preliminary chemical compounds that could be effective against COVID. PostEra then built a platform where we provide scientists with these preliminary results and ask them to think creatively about how they could turn these suggestions into an actual drug compound we can then make and test. The whole project is particularly novel for several reasons: Firstly PostEra uses the latest in machine learning to design the recipes (synthetic routes) to make the suggested compounds; this acts as a screening process to reduce the typical timeframe of development from years to the order of months. In addition, the entire project is open-source and all collaborators are working on a pro-bono basis — this would be the first time to our knowledge that a drug would be fully developed in an open-sourced fashion. When we launched the platform we were expecting maybe 50-100 submitted molecules. We now have over 2000 molecules submitted from over 300 contributors around the globe. In addition, COVID Moonshot has received $300k of in-kind donations from generous donors and been featured in several press outlets: C&EN, FreeThink.
It’s been truly amazing to see everyone come together to contribute toward the effort and we are now hoping (it really would be a ‘moonshot’) that within 4 months we can have a potential antiviral drug that can be clinically tested as a cure to COVID-19. Feel free to follow our progress via the platform or via Twitter @covid_moonshot.
I always have fond memories of my time at Wickersley and owe all the teaching staff there a huge thanks for your input into my education!