AstraZeneca, BenevolentAI join forces for AI-powered drug discovery

AstraZeneca has commenced a long-term collaboration with BenevolentAI to tap into the latter’s artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology to accelerate discovery of new drugs for chronic kidney disease (CKD) and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

The collaboration will combine the genomics, chemistry and clinical data of AstraZeneca with the target identification platform and biomedical knowledge graph of BenevolentAI.

BenevolentAI’s biomedical knowledge graph is a network of contextualized scientific data, covering genes, proteins, diseases and compounds, and the relationship between them.

The company is engaged in combining computational medicine and advanced AI with the principles of open systems and cloud computing to transform how drugs are designed, developed, tested and launched.

The company’s Benevolent Platform, which is powered by AI technology, is designed to help scientists in potentially discovering novel pathways and mechanisms that are key in the pathophysiology of disease.

According to the company, machine learning analyses data systematically to understand connections between facts, while AI-based reasoning is utilized for extrapolating previously unknown connections.

BenevolentAI CEO Joanna Shields said: “Millions of people today suffer from diseases that have no effective treatment. The future of drug discovery and development lies in bridging the gap between AI, data, and biology.

“We are thrilled to be joining forces with AstraZeneca to develop new insights and identify promising new treatments for chronic kidney disease and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.”

The partners expect to interpret the results to get an understanding of the underlying mechanisms of the diseases and accelerate identification of new potential drug targets.

The collaboration has started with CKD and IPF as they are complex diseases and currently there is a poor understanding of the underlying disease biology. The disease complexity would need the interrogation of extensive, rich datasets, said BenevolentAI.

AstraZeneca biopharmaceuticals R&D EVP and president Mene Pangalos said: “The vast amount of data available to research scientists is growing exponentially each year.

“By combining AstraZeneca’s disease area expertise and large, diverse datasets with BenevolentAI’s leading AI and machine learning capabilities, we can unlock the potential of this wealth of data to improve our understanding of complex disease biology and identify new targets that could treat debilitating diseases.”

In April this year, BenevolentAI said that the initial results from an AI project using its Benevolent Platform indicated various existing drugs to have the potential to reduce sight loss from age-associated macular degeneration.

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