In a groundbreaking development, a drug named NS018_055, created entirely through the discovery and design capabilities of an AI system, is entering mid-stage human clinical trials for the first time. Biotech firm Insilico Medicine is spearheading this innovative endeavor, with the aim of addressing idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a chronic lung disease known for its debilitating impact on breathing.
The approval for phase 2 trials signifies a critical juncture in determining the drug’s efficacy. Insilico views this milestone as a significant step forward for the burgeoning field of AI-accelerated pharmaceuticals, potentially paving the way for a new era of drug research and development that holds immense promise for both scientific advancements and commercial success.
Insilico’s CEO, Alex Zhavoronko, lauds this achievement as a testament to their comprehensive approach, melding biology, chemistry, and deep learning. Zhavoronko stated, “This first drug candidate that’s going to Phase 2 is a true highlight of our end-to-end approach to bridge biology and chemistry with deep learning. This is a significant milestone not only for us but for everyone in the field of AI-accelerated drug discovery.”
With lofty ambitions, Zhavoronko foresees an era of significantly heightened productivity in the pharmaceutical industry through the integration of AI technologies. He asserts that Insilico has the potential to double the productivity of major pharma companies, effectively halving the time required for drug development with AI assistance.
Insilico’s approach involves deploying AI models powered by NVIDIA graphics processing units, enabling rapid analysis of vast datasets to identify potential drug candidates. The AI system conceptualizes these candidates and predicts their effectiveness, streamlining the early stages of drug discovery. Notably, the creation of NS018_055 took less than 18 months, a fraction of the usual six-year timeline.
Insilico has harnessed its AI platform to uncover 12 pre-clinical drug candidates, with three advancing to early clinical trials. NS018_055 stands out as the first to progress to Phase 2 trials, a testament to the efficacy of Insilico’s methodology.
Zhavoronko emphasizes that their results challenge skeptics who doubted the ability of generative AI systems to achieve such levels of diversity, novelty, and accuracy. The existence of a promising pipeline of drug candidates reinforces the effectiveness of their approach.
However, it is important to note that the drug’s true efficacy in humans is yet to be determined, as it embarks on the years-long process of clinical trials. Historically, approximately 90 percent of drugs entering clinical trials ultimately fail, as pointed out by pharmaceutical sciences professor Duxin Sun.
Although cautionary tales exist, such as the recent setbacks faced by London-based biotech AI firm Benevolent AI, pharma companies continue to invest heavily in AI startups like Insilico. With Insilico’s clinical trial milestone and the rapidly expanding AI market, substantial investments are expected to flow into this exciting intersection of AI and pharmaceuticals.
Eric Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, and author of “Deep Medicine,” emphasizes the widespread interest from major pharma companies, as they forge partnerships with one or more AI companies to explore the immense potential of this transformative technology.
As this AI-designed drug enters human clinical trials, the outcome will undoubtedly shape the future landscape of drug discovery and AI-pharma collaborations, holding the promise of revolutionizing the industry and improving the lives of patients worldwide.