British startup Exscientia and Japanese biopharmaceutical firm Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma have created the world’s first drug molecule invented by artificial intelligence (AI) which will be used in human clinical trials. This drug is targeted for patients diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In what portends a promising future, taking a drug to clinical trials typically takes five years but this AI-born molecule took just 12 months.
DSP—1181: Born out of the Machine
The drug molecule, known as DSP-1181, was born using computer software algorithms that poured through and analyzed thousands of potential compounds comparing them against massive database of parameters. This compound was uncovered within 350 synthesized compounds rather than the typical 2,500. It was developed combining DSP’s experience and monoamine G protein-coupled receptor drug discovery and the Centaur Chemist, Exscientia’s formalized set of moves and a system to learn strategy from human experts.
A long-acting and potent serotonin 5-HT1A receptor agonist, this experimental drug will be included in Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma’s neurology clinical trials pipeline.
Growing Trend: AI Usage in Drug Discovery
AI-driven drug discovery is moving rapidly to advance the speed, precision and productivity of the entire drug development process. Machine learning and similar technologies are rapidly evolving in the quest to make new biopharmaceuticals faster and cheaper. For example, in a recent article in Nature, Nic Fleming reported Pfizer had partnered with IBM Watson to augment its search for immune-oncology drugs while Sanofi inked a deal with UK-based Exscientia’s platform—Centaur Chemist—mentioned in this TrialSite News report—to power its search for metabolic-disease therapies. Genentech (Roche) now utilizes AI from GNS Healthcare to support its quest for oncology treatments. The Science article conveys that most biopharma players of any size and importance now have developed similar discovery-based AI arrangements.
Of course, the entrepreneurs follow in and venture capital spigot has been on for a while now. Consequently, there are literally now hundreds of startups developing AI—platforms and tools for drug discovery—many of them venture capital backed.
The Clinical Trial
Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma and Exscientia reported that DSP-1181 is now entering a Phase I clinical trial in Japan for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder as an initial indication. This very well could be the first clinical trial centering on an experimental molecule that was created via AI.
A psychiatric disorder with over 3 million patients in America and at least 1 million in Japan, it is characterized by the presence of obsessions (repetitive and persistence thoughts, images, or urges) and/or compulsions (repetitive behaviors or mental acts). OCD is associated with reduced quality of life as well as a result of time-consuming by obsessions or compulsions. Although researchers are not conclusive on the mechanisms of OCD, it is thought that perhaps the OCD dysfunction in the orbitofrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex and striatum have been strongly indicated.
Who is Exscientia?
Founded in 2012 by Andrew Hopkins, the British venture has raised $43.7 million according to CrunchBase. With about 60 employees, Exscientia positions to be at the forefront of small molecule drug discovery as well as the first venture to automate drug design, surpassing conventional human endeavor. Their AI-driven systems actively learn best practice from vast repositories of discovery data and are further enhanced with knowledge acquired from experienced drug discovery experts.
Founder/CEO Hopkins, according to their website, is one of the most distinguished and cited scientists in modern drug discovery. He helped champion the automated and algorithmic approach to drug design and drug discovery. Hopkins spent 14 years at Pfizer and in academic pioneering cutting-edge projects using data mining and machine learning in the pharmaceutical industry. He has published many papers that influence the new paradigm of modern drug discovery.
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