Artificial Intelligence: Can it really help drug discovery?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making waves in many different industries around the world. However, many would argue that the most important development is seen in the medical sector. Machine learning is expected to make the hunt for new pharmaceuticals cheaper, faster, and a lot more effective. 

With that being said, continue reading to discover everything you need to know about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the role it is playing in drug discovery. 

Exciting developments and trials are in play at present

In April, Evotec, a German biotechnology business, announced the first phase of a clinical trial on a new anticancer molecule. This candidate was created together with Exscientia, a business located in Oxford, UK, which makes the most of Artificial Intelligence (AI) approaches to small-molecule drug discovery. 

Where it may have taken the conventional discovery process four to five years to locate a suitable drug candidate, it was found in eight months by harnessing Centaur Chemist, which is an AI design platform from Exscientia. The drug candidate in question is an A2 receptor antagonist designed to aid T cells in fighting solid tumours. 

AI design platform Centaur Chemist

Let’s look a little bit further at Centaur Chemist, so we can see a glimpse of the power of AI. This system has the ability to computationally sort through and compare different properties of millions of potential small molecules. It will look for between 10 and 20 to synthesise, test, and optimise in laboratory experiments before choosing the eventual drug candidate for a clinical trial. 

Other companies are playing a role as well

Exscientia is one of a lot of businesses that have been found in the past 10 years and using AI-based techniques and strategies for the purpose of discovering and developing drugs, a number of which have raised a significant amount of funding in recent years.

Some of these businesses are also creating tools to help them speed up the identification of small molecule drug candidates. 

You then have the likes of Recursion Pharmaceuticals, which raised $436 million as of late in its initial public offering. This company is creating huge quantities of bespoke data regarding cellular behaviour with the aim of mining these using Artificial Intelligence to reveal biological insights that could inform innovative drug discovery. 

There are other more established companies that are getting involved, which are traditionally less focused on healthcare, including technology businesses like Google, Microsoft, and IBM.

AI is being used to predict new small molecules with desirable properties

When it comes to AI approaches, small molecules are attractive due to the availability of suitable data that AI can learn from, enabling accurate predictions about how new molecules are created. 

AI has the ability to assess huge amounts of existing data, learning patterns that may be too complex or subtle for humans to recognise. It can then determine new small molecules with attractive characteristics, driving the computational screening procedure to brand new heights. 

For example, the company that we mentioned above – Exscientia – is working alongside businesses like Dianippon Sumitomo on locating bispecific molecules, which can bind to more than one target. 

AI is having a positive impact on clinical trial design

Aside from the benefits that we have mentioned above, we are also seeing that AI is having a positive impact on the design of clinical trials as well. AI is being unleashed on different existing data sets, including information gleaned from omics fields, previous clinical trial results, patient demographics, and electronic health records. This is helping to drive forward clinical trials so that they can be as effective as possible. 

For example, in March, Komodo Health and Janssen penned a deal, which brings together stores of claims codes and additional forms of patient information with predictive AI algorithms that will match patients to the best clinical trials for them, possibly making these trials a lot more powerful and effective. 

Final words on AI and drug discovery

So there you have it: an insight into Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how this is making an impact in the medical sector. AI is helping us explore new ways to develop drugs in a much quicker, more effective, and cost-efficient manner. We certainly expect to see some great progressions in this area over the coming months, and it could mean a new chapter in the world of drug development.