BenevolentAI to power small molecule drug discovery

BenevolentAI has entered a two-year agreement with the MRC Technology to investigate new small molecule and antibody drug candidates.

The UK-based artificial intelligence company has teamed up with the independent research charity to share confidential molecular disease targets to help create new compounds.

Benevolent will share targets identified through its AI system with MRCT which will then carry out any pre-clinical and clinical development of the compound.

MRCT will run molecules and antibodies it believes may hit a specific target through BenevolentAI’s deep learning platform to validate them. If a compound is validated, MRCT will then work with Benevolent or another partner to further its development.

“The combination of our technology and R&D experience, together with MRCT’s screening and hit to lead capabilities, is powerful,” said Jackie Hunter, CEO of BenevolentAI subsidiary BenevolentBio. “It’s a novel model and I believe that our two organisations’ complementary skills and capabilities will enable the search for, and development of, new medicines to proceed much more quickly.”

BenevolentAI’s data mining angle to identify potential new drug targets is one area of particular interest to the pharmaceutical industry. Not only does the process potentially save millions in terms of R&D, it can create more effective therapies in the long run, leading to potentially higher profitability.

One company fully invested in the concept is US-based BERG Health. The firm’s ‘Interrogative Biology’ platform examines data from thousands of in vitro or animal models in order to identify potential new drug targets.

The AI has helped develop BERG’s coenzyme Q10 candidate BPM 31510 – a drug now being investigated in several cancer indications, including pancreatic.

Similar AIs like IBM’s multi-talented Watson are receiving major backing from their creators as the next frontier in medicine. Last year, Watson was part of major deals in the oncology, patient data sharing and drug repurposing.

Like BenevolentAI’s offering, Watson’s ability to digest and analyse vast amounts of scientific data from various sources to produce potentially actionable insights is attracting the attention of the pharmaceutical industry, including the likes of Lundbeck, Teva and Novo Nordisk.

Compared to its competitors, BenevolentAI could have the upper hand in the deep learning compartment, thanks to the integration of an NVIDIA DGX-1 – the world’s most advanced deep learning supercomputer currently available.

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