Almirall, Microsoft team up on digital dermatology drive

Almirall CEO Carlos Gallardo and Alberto Granados, president of Microsoft Spain

Almirall CEO Carlos Gallardo and Alberto Granados, president of Microsoft Spain

Almirall has taken another step forwards in the development of a digital approach to managing and treating dermatological conditions, forming a three-year alliance with Microsoft that is designed to accelerate the discovery and development of drug therapies.

The partnership is centred around the creation of a joint Digital Office, bringing together Almirall’s expertise in dermatology R&D with Microsoft Industry Solutions’ technologies, including generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) and analytics technologies in a quest to find new personalised therapies for skin disorders.

A key objective is the use of GenAI large language models (LLMs) to examine the scientific literature and other big datasets to deliver a “digital, agile, and patient-centric approach” to the discovery of “synthesisable molecules […] and new technologies,” said Almirall in a statement.

There was a big shift towards the deployment of GenAI in drug discovery in 2023, as pharma companies moved beyond early applications in literature research and evaluating regulatory developments towards embedding the technology in R&D functions.

It is still an embryonic development, but a series of multi-year alliances in the category in just the last few weeks - involving Boehringer Ingelheim and IBM, Sanofi and Aqema, AstraZeneca and Absci, and Genentech and NVIDIA - reveals the high level of interest in using GenAI to improve the efficiency of drug discovery.

“At Almirall, we believe that leading innovation is enabled by collaborating with experts and being at the forefront of science and technology,” said chief executive Carlos Gallardo.

“This agreement with Microsoft is a significant advancement in our digital transformation to achieve our goal of delivering novel treatment options for patients,” he added. “It will empower us to apply latest technologies to transform our ways of working, and accelerate drug discovery.”

Almirall has started to embrace digitalisation across many aspects of its business, including the development of digital therapeutics (DTx) such as Claro, an app designed to reduce anxiety and improve wellbeing in people with psoriasis. It also runs an accelerator programme called Digital Garden, supporting start-up companies with tech-based programmes in dermatology.

Microsoft alliance with 1910 Genetics

Meanwhile, Microsoft has also announced the formation of a partnership with US biotech 1910 Genetics to build a digital drug discovery ‘infrastructure’, powered by AI, high-performance computing, and wet lab automation, which promises to generate small- and large-molecule therapeutics faster and more cost-effectively.

They claim the platform will transform discovery across all industries, especially in pharma, where, on average, it takes 12 to 15 years and costs over $2 billion to develop a new drug. It taps into Microsoft’s Azure Quantum Elements (AQE), a supercomputer for chemistry that contains AI models trained on hundreds of millions of molecules and uses GenAI to deliver insights to researchers.

1 February, 2024