Pfizer Taps Insilico Medicine to Use AI for Drug Target Discovery

Xconomy National — 

Insilico Medicine on Tuesday announced that it has entered a research collaboration with Pfizer, which Insilico CEO Alex Zhavoronkov says has “one of the most advanced AI teams internally both in target identification and chemistry.”

Under the agreement, Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) will use Insilico’s machine learning technology and proprietary Pandomics Discovery Platform. Pfizer, not new to applying such advanced analytics, also has worked with IBM Watson and Concerto HealthAI.

“We will use our generative biology platform to attempt the discovery of new previously invisible biological targets implicated in specific diseases,” Zhavoronkov tells Xconomy, though specific disease targets were not disclosed. Financial terms of the partnership were also not disclosed.

As Zhavoronkov explains, since 2016 the company has been using advanced techniques to train AI to “imagine” molecules with specific properties. “But in parallel, we did a lot of experiments applying the same methods to generate synthetic biological data training AI to generate novel biology,” he says.

“Now we use this technique alongside predictive omics analysis, advanced bioinformatics, and deep text mining to attempt the discovery of novel targets in a variety of human diseases,” he adds.

While the company has not published its work in generative biology, Zhavoronkov says he currently does not know of anyone else doing this work on the same scale, “as it also requires deep understanding of the biology of aging and training of the deep neural networks on longitudinal data.”

The company, headquartered in Hong Kong, closed its Series B funding round in September 2019. The financing—which brought in $37 million—was led by Qiming Venture Partners and included Eight Roads, F-Prime Capital, Lilly Asia Ventures, Sinovation Ventures, Baidu Ventures, Pavilion Capital, BOLD Capital Partners, and others, in addition to those who participated in the Series A round.

Globally, Insilico lists more than 150 collaborators in academia and industry. Last year the company announced a tie-up with Tara Biosystems, which is developing “heart-on-a-chip” tissue models to aid in drug discovery and risk assessment. [Paragrph updated to remove comment about GSK collaboration. The companies are no longer working together.]

Insilico also last week announced a collaboration with the German company, Beiersdorf. Together they are working to discover bioactive ingredients for an undisclosed skin indication.

Since 2014 Insilico has raised more than $52 million and applied for more than 20 patents.

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