UK public-private partnership to use AI to cut drug failure rate

A UK R&D project has secured a government grant to help its artificial intelligence (AI)-based drug discovery project.

Government-backed agency Innovate UK is backing the  £1 million project, which is a collaboration between two small tech businesses and the Medicines Discovery Catapult, a government-run initiative.

The project will see Optibrium, which creates software to improve the efficiency and productivity of drug discovery, and Intellegens, a spin out from the University of Cambridge which is focused on the specific form of AI called ‘deep learning’, work with northwest based Medicines Discovery Catapult over the next two years.

High failure rates mean that 9 out of 10 potential drugs fail somewhere between phase 1 trials and regulatory approval, greatly adding to the costs of creating new medicines.

The aim of the project is to harness the power of AI to learn from complex data and guide scientists in the design and testing of potential new drugs and cut failure rates.

Drug discovery generates a huge quantity of complex biological, chemical, clinical and safety information that needs to be collected, analysed and presented in a way that it can be best used to make evidence-based decisions.

The research partners are seeking a means of providing better insights into how a drug interacts with the body, improving the efficiency and productivity of drug discovery.

The project will use novel deep learning methods to create a next generation platform that will better predict the absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion and toxicity of new drug candidates.

Optibrium has developed software, which could be combined with Intellegens’ deep learning toolkit, to assess the drug candidates.

The aim is to improve the scope and reliability of drug design parameters, currently inaccessible or unavailable, for the first time.

Professor John Overington, chief informatics officer of the Medicines Discovery Catapult, said: “At Medicines Discovery Catapult we apply innovation, working alongside UK SMEs to drive the development and adoption of new approaches for the discovery and early development of new medicines. This collaborative R&D activity will allow us to do just that and the grant from Innovate UK represents an important milestone for the advancement of informatics and data science.”




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