BenevolentAI and charities to seek macular degeneration cure

BenevolentAI and a group of UK sight loss charities have launched a new partnership to use the firm’s AI-powered drug discovery to find treatments and a potential cure for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in developed countries.

The four UK charities, Blind Veterans UK, Fight for Sight, the Macular Society and Scottish War Blinded have formed Action Against AMD (AAA) to increase the funding for research into the condition, and specifically to help develop an intervention that stops people losing their sight from AMD.

BenevolentAI will use its proprietary technology platform to review and understand the millions of scientific papers, clinical trials information, images, formulas, patents and additional data sets relating to AMD. The AI will then conduct complex reasoning to create a new understanding of the disease, learn, explore, create and translate what it has learnt from this vast volume of information to pinpoint important research areas, plus possible ways of preventing AMD and potential treatments.

AMD is the main cause of sight loss in developed countries and the third-biggest worldwide. In the UK more than 600,000 have late-stage AMD and this is set to double by 2050 as people live longer. Many more older people have early AMD that does not yet affect their sight, so finding ways to detect and treat the disease before it causes sight loss is vital.

Jackie Hunter

Dr Jackie Hunter, CEO BenevolentBio, the bioscience subsidiary of BenevolentAI that focuses on accelerating drug discovery and development, commented: “BenevolentAI’s deep learning linguistic models, knowledge graph and algorithms will be applied to create a better understanding of AMD, generate new insights and identify promising new research areas for treating this devastating condition.”

AAA Chair, Rob Bryan, said: “AI offers an exciting new way to approach medical research. We must find new treatments for AMD because it will affect tens of millions of older people across the world in the coming decades. We are delighted to be collaborating with BAI on this ground-breaking project.”

The early diagnosis and treatment of AMD is essential for reducing the risk of severe vision loss. By 2020, it is predicted that almost 700,000 people will have late-stage AMD in the UK.

Dr Hunter addressed the need for action by saying, “BenevolentAI accelerates scientific discovery to tackle some of the largest and most pressing challenges in medicine. AMD is one such challenge. We are delighted to partner with AAA to generate new ideas in AMD that have the potential to deliver new medicines to a vast number patients.”

The latest news illustrates BenevolentAI’s drive to become a fully-fledged AI-enabled biotech. Last month the company announced it had acquired a drug discovery and development facility on the Babraham Research Campus in Cambridge, UK and last year poached Ian Churcher, from GlaxoSmithKline to be its vice president of drug discovery.

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