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Artificial Intelligence

AI Has Its Sights Set on Disrupting Drug Discovery

September 9, 2023
x min read

Artificial intelligence is coming for biotech.

While much of the focus on AI has been around disrupting technology, there is growing validation that artificial intelligence is becoming the next frontier of drug discovery.

Who’s making moves:

  • Verge Genomics announced AI drug discovery partnership with Alexion, the rare disease arm of AstraZeneca. The deal has the potential to be worth up to $840M USD
  • Nvidia has been making big bets on AI for drug discovery, from seed stage startups to large pharmaceutical companies
  • Genesis Therapeutics raised $200M in a Series B for AI drug discovery research, which was led by a16z
  • Evolutionary Scale, founded by a team of researchers previously at Meta (NASDAQ: META), raised $40M to advance their AI models for biology. The round was led by Lux Capital with notable participation from Daniel Gross, Nat Friedman and others.
  • Noetik, a San Francisco based startup founder by talent from Recursion Pharma, raised $14M in seed funding to develop technology that leverages machine learning and computational biology

Why it matters:

  • Artificial intelligence could unlock entirely new therapeutic breakthroughs and innovation, especially in areas such as rare diseases and oncology
  • New drug discovery is a challenging process with a high failure rate, so any technological advancement has the potential to meaningfully accelerate the rate of progress of developing new drugs

The big idea:

  • By being able to process enormous sets of data, AI is able to accelerate drug discovery by reducing time and capital costs of predictive modelling and data analysis that is necessary for designing new drugs
  • Through data analysis of previous patient outcomes, AI can discover patterns and insights that are helpful for evaluating the safety profiles of new drugs, optimizing vaccine designs and more
  • Traditionally, drug discovery has required significant time and human labour to understand the potential effects of new compounds or to sort through old research to understand where other clinical trials may have failed
  • Instead of relying solely on initial experiments in the lab, researchers and drug developers can now leverage AI to deliver analytics that help design new molecules and compounds in a more precise manner from the beginning

Yes but:

  • Drugs developed from AI models or AI based approaches are only now beginning to enter clinical trials, so it is too early yet to tell how effective or consistently successful they will be
  • Insilico Pharma, whose investors include private equity titan Warburg Pincus and the venture arm of Saudi Armco, is the only company so far to get a AI generated drug to human trials, with their novel therapeutic for pulmonary fibrosis entering into Phase II trials

The intrigue:

  • There’s a wide range of potential applications for AI to transform more than just drug discovery, from clinical trial design to data analysis
  • QuantHealth raised $15M to build a platform focused on optimizing clinical trial design through AI and being able to more accurately predict successful outcomes
  • ReadoutAI raised a pre seed round led by Meridian Capital to build out an AI enabled platform that decreases the amount of time it takes to get meaningful data and insights from clinical trials
  • Lindus Health raised $18M in a Series A led by Peter Thiel. The aim is to leverage AI and machine learning to build a better clinical research organization that can accelerate clinical trials and drug discovery innovation

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