Artificial Intelligence can make clinical trials cheaper and faster, and this British start-up is about to start testing its technology to optimize drug development.
BenevolentAI is a London start-up that specializes in artificial intelligence (AI); its BenevolentBio division, formerly Stratified Medical, applies AI to human health and biotech. Its baby is a technology that could speed up late-stage development of drugs and provide richer clinical data. Now, it will test it using clinical stage drug candidates licensed from Janssen.
Although there are no details on the particulars of the agreement, BenevolentAI is confident that it can accelerate clinical development and begin Phase IIb trials in mid-2017. If everything works out well, the company will have exclusive rights to develop, manufacture and commercialize these candidates.
BenevolentBio focuses on inflammation, neurodegenerative disease and rare cancers, although its machine learning technology is flexible enough to be applied to any other biomedical areas. Before the agreement with Janssen, the company had already identified two novel targets for Alzheimer’s and licensed the discovery in a €729M deal.
The stakes are undoubtedly in favor of the young AI company: a recent study has estimated that machine learning could reduce the costs of drug discovery, currently at an average of €2.4B ($2.6B), by a whopping 70%! How is this even possible? AI can predict the activity and toxicity of a drug with much more precision than any other computational methods. And what’s more, the prediction power improves over time by feeding it data from experimental results.
Although this interdisciplinary field is still very young, there’s already a few companies exploring this space, including Berg, Insilico Medicine, Atomwise and Cloud Pharmaceuticals. However, BenevolentAI is the first European company tackling the AI revolution in the pharma industry, and it seems to be well-prepared to step in: the CEO of its technology division, Jérôme Pesenti, created and led the development of the famous IBM Watson platform.
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Picture from BenevolentAI
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