Study shows AI potential to drastically speed drug development in China

1 min read

A study by Hong Kong-based Insilico Medicine utilized a new AI system that created a series of novel molecules capable of treating fibrosis and other illnesses on a significantly shorter timeline, the South China Morning Post reported

Why it matters: Insilico used AI to identify treatment candidates in just three weeks compared with the traditional drug discovery process, which can take decades and cost billions. Besides saving money for pharmaceutical companies, streamlining the development of new drugs could also save lives. 

Details: Out of the six molecules that the firm successfully created, one was later found to be effective in treating mice with renal fibrosis. 

  • Insilico’s system dubbed GENTRL is powered by a “generative chemistry that utilizes modern AI techniques” similar to Google’s Go-playing DeepMind, according to BioSpace.
  • GENTRL was developed in collaboration with pharmaceutical services contractor Wuxi Apptec and the University of Toronto’s Alán Aspuru-Guzik. 
  • The pharmaceutical research firm’s paper describing its success was published in the journal, Nature Biotechnology, on Monday. 

Context: With China’s healthcare data industry set to top RMB 80 billion by 2020, artificial intelligence applications show promise in the face of a rapidly aging population coupled with a dearth of doctors to provide care. 

  • Tencent Holdings has partnered with more than 100 Chinese hospitals to research new AI applications.
  • Alibaba is also collaborating with hospitals to develop smart diagnosis platforms.  
  • Baidu is developing an open-source AI platform to assist in breast cancer detection.