UCB and Microsoft announce digital drug R&D tie-up

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UCB and Microsoft have announced a multi-year strategic collaboration to advance the digitalisation of the Belgian pharma company and accelerate its research efforts.

The companies have already been working together on the COVID Moonshot Project, which aimed to create an orally available antiviral to combat the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

UCB completed six months’ worth of computational screening and compound design in three days using the technology.

While the company isn’t saying much about the outcome of the COVID work, it looks like they have hit it off and expanded the collaboration into other areas.

The companies have been using Microsoft’s Azure cloud-based platform to design molecules that could be used to fight COVID, which are being moved forward into further research.

UCB volunteered employee time in the areas of Medicinal Chemistry, CADD and IT to contribute new drug design ideas in addition to prioritising more than 13,000 crowdsourced submissions.

The expanded collaboration will use data, computing power, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and science to accelerate development of life changing therapies and individualised medicines for people living with severe diseases in immunology and neurology.

This combination of cutting-edge science, computing power, and AI algorithms aims to significantly accelerate the iteration cycles required to identify more effective molecules.

The companies said that goals of the collaboration are to improve a patient’s journey, increase the impact of treatment with a deeper understanding of the cause of the disease.

They also aim to systematically provide better research-driven insights to enable faster discovery of therapeutic molecules and accelerate clinical development timelines.

Digital technology is a strategic priority for UCB, which aims to use it to improve drug discovery in the future.

UCB’s CEO Jean-Christophe Tellier said: "By amplifying the power of scientific innovation through digital transformation, we hope to have a better understanding of what makes a patient's journey unique so that we can provide personalised and differentiated medicine in a sustainable way."