Companies Focus on ALS in Partnering AI, Drug Discovery Skills

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by Patricia Inácio, PhD |

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Bringing artificial intelligence (AI) to the development of small molecule therapies for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neurological diseases is the goal of a business partnership in Asia.

The newly signed agreement is between Insilico Medicine, an AI-driven drug discovery company based in Hong Kong, and 4B Technologies of Suzhou, China, a biopharmaceutical specializing in nervous system disorders.

A main aim of this collaboration is to use Insilico’s AI technologies to accelerate treatment discovery and development, while lowering the costs associated with research programs.

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“Traditional drug R&D [research and development] is a time-consuming and expensive process. It takes an average of 10 years and $2.6 billion for a novel drug to be developed. The application of AI technologies in drug discovery and development has made great progress in recent years and has the potential to transform the pharmaceutical industry by significantly shortening timelines and reducing cost,” Xiaoming Guan, PhD, CEO of 4B Technologies, said in a press release.

“Neurodegenerative diseases including ALS pose great challenges in medical research and are one of our key focuses,” Guan added. “4B Technologies is establishing a broad ALS alliance with academia, hospitals, patient groups, and industrial partners. Our collaboration with Insilico will enable 4B to apply leading AI technology to expediate our R&D process … to develop breakthrough treatment of ALS.”

Insilico has three primary research areas powered by AI: its PandaOmics allows the discovery of targets in “just a few clicks,” according to the company’s website. Its Chemistry42, an automated machine learning platform, works to find novel structures for potential therapeutic molecules, which can be moved into early and, potentially, clinical testing. The company also has InClinico, a tool to help trial sponsors design clinical studies likely to succeed by spotting protocol faults, and by predicting their likely success rate.

“Insilico is an industry leader in AI-driven drug discovery with a track record of accelerated drug discovery process,” said Feng Ren, PhD, chief scientific officer and head of therapy R&D at Insilico. “We are pleased to partner with 4B Technologies to address the unmet medical needs for the treatment of ALS.”

This partnership, Ren added, “will leverage Insilico’s unique synthetic [lab made] biology and synthetic chemistry AI platform and 4B Technologies’ deep insights in targeting strategies, biology, translational research and clinical medicine in the field of neurological diseases to accelerate novel drug discovery for ALS.”