BenevolentAI, AstraZeneca AI-based drug discovery collaboration achieves third milestone


BenevolentAI has discovered a second novel target for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), which AstraZeneca has added to its drug development portfolio, resulting in a milestone payment to the London-based research firm.

This is the third novel target from the duo's collaboration identified using the Benevolent Platform across two disease areas – IPF and chronic kidney disease – and subsequently validated and selected for portfolio entry by AstraZeneca. This latest development builds upon the recent extension of the collaboration with AstraZeneca to include two new disease areas, systemic lupus erythematosus and heart failure, agreed in January 2022.

IPF is a condition in which the lungs become scarred, and breathing becomes increasingly difficult. The NHS says it's not clear what causes it, but it usually affects people aged 70 to 75 years old and is rare in people under 50. Several treatments can help reduce the rate at which IPF gets worse, but there's currently no treatment that can stop or reverse the scarring of the lungs. In the UK, 70,000 people are living with pulmonary fibrosis.

"IPF is a devastating disease with median survival of around three years and there is a serious need for better treatment options," says professor Maria Belvisi, SVP and head of research and early development, respiratory and immunology at AstraZeneca. "We are continuously striving to improve our R&D productivity in order to quickly bring potentially innovative treatments to complex diseases such as IPF."

Dr Anne Phelan, chief scientific officer at BenevolentAI, explained that target identification is an essential first step in the drug discovery pipeline – and this is where the Benevolent Platform can make the biggest impact, she says.

"Our AI-enabled approach empowers scientists to explore all the available evidence to unravel the enormous complexity of biological systems and the underlying mechanisms of disease," adds Dr Phelan. "By reaching this third milestone, we have further validated the ability of BenevolentAI's disease agnostic platform to identify novel targets and deliver tangible scientific results for complex and debilitating conditions such as IPF."

BenevolentAI uses its AI platform, scientific expertise, and wet-lab facilities to deliver novel drug candidates with a higher probability of clinical success than those developed using traditional methods. Its platform currently supports a growing in-house pipeline of more than 20 drug programmes.