AI drug dis­cov­ery suc­cess in­spires a ma­chine-learn­ing start­up at the Mayo Clin­ic

A lit­tle over a year ago, An­drew Badley, the chief med­ical of­fi­cer and new tech leader at the Mayo Clin­ic, thought it would be a good time to start test­ing the wa­ters on ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence-dri­ven tech­nol­o­gy for drug dis­cov­ery. Work­ing with Mu­rali Ar­ava­mu­dan at nfer­ence, they put some of the lat­est tech on da­ta-dri­ven ma­chine learn­ing to use for one of the in­ves­ti­ga­tors at the Mayo Clin­ic who had been do­ing some hard think­ing about a mol­e­c­u­lar tar­get.

“Lit­er­al­ly, in the next cou­ple of weeks we had in­sights we had not had in the last two years,” re­calls Badley. And af­ter they chalked that up as a suc­cess, they be­gan to think about the po­ten­tial of open­ing AI tech up to all the in­ves­ti­ga­tors at the Mayo Clin­ic.

Now, Badley and Ar­ava­mu­dan are cre­at­ing a new com­pa­ny, Qra­tiv, with the sole role of mak­ing this AI plat­form avail­able to Mayo clin­i­cians look­ing for a ma­chine-as­sist­ed ap­proach to dot con­nect­ing.

Think of this in terms of the way two sci­en­tists can make a break­through, they say. Sci­en­tist 1, with two ideas comes to­geth­er with an­oth­er sci­en­tist with a shared no­tion and a third orig­i­nal idea that’s re­lat­ed to the work. To­geth­er, they hatch a new, orig­i­nal the­o­ry.

With AI, says Badley, a clin­i­cian can take a drug or drug can­di­date and start ask­ing some ques­tions. What does the drug do? How does the mech­a­nism ap­ply in var­i­ous dis­eases? Are there oth­er, bet­ter us­es for a ther­a­py? If you get a hit, are you look­ing at the 4th or 5th new drug for a dis­ease that’s al­ready well con­trolled, or a new en­try among the un­met med­ical needs still on an in­fi­nite­ly long arm? What, ul­ti­mate­ly, has the best chance of suc­ceed­ing?

“The no­tion of ma­chine learn­ing has been around in drug dis­cov­ery for awhile,” says Ar­ava­mu­dan, who’ll be run­ning the vir­tu­al show at Qra­tiv for Mayo, with $8.3 mil­lion in ven­ture cap­i­tal from the Mayo Clin­ic, Ma­trix Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment and Ma­trix Part­ners.

In the last few years the field has be­gun to get crowd­ed. We’re see­ing a grow­ing list of new ven­tures like Nu­mer­ate, Benev­o­len­tAI, Re­cur­sion Phar­ma, or In­sil­i­co Med­i­cine in Bal­ti­more step up mak­ing the tech­nol­o­gy avail­able to drug dis­cov­er­ers.

In Qra­tiv’s case they can in­clude the da­ta sets at Mayo and put it in an AI pro­gram that can start draw­ing lines be­tween drugs, tar­gets and dis­eases. Take the best ideas in­to the clin­ic for proof-of-con­cept da­ta and then ei­ther li­cense out the work to bio­phar­ma or start up a new com­pa­ny with it. As you can imag­ine, there will be var­i­ous ways of split­ting up the IP.

“The day when a ma­chine can au­to­mat­i­cal­ly ID a drug is still far off,” says Badley. Some­body has to do the hard lab work that lays the foun­da­tion for a new drug pro­gram. But AI can po­ten­tial­ly ad­vance the process by years, elim­i­nat­ing a lot of waste. That’s the hope.

That jour­ney starts now at the Mayo Clin­ic.

Com­mu­ni­cat­ing the val­ue of pre­ci­sion med­i­cine

By Natasha Cowan, Content Marketing Manager at Blue Latitude Health.
Many stakeholders are confused by novel precision medicines, including patients and healthcare professionals. So, how can industry help them to navigate this complexity?

Precision medicine represents a new paradigm in healthcare. It embodies the shift from treating many patients with the same therapy, to having the tools to identify the best treatment for every patient.

Spe­cial re­port: Twen­ty ex­tra­or­di­nary women in bio­phar­ma R&D who worked their way to the top

What differentiates a woman leader in biopharma R&D from a man?

Not much, except there are fewer of them in senior posts. Data suggest women are not more risk-averse, family-oriented or less confident than their male counterparts — indeed the differences between the two sexes are negligible. But a glance at the top R&D positions in Big Pharma leaves little doubt that upward migration in the executive ranks of biopharma R&D is tough.

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GSK's asth­ma bi­o­log­ic Nu­cala scores in rare blood dis­or­der study

GlaxoSmithKline’s asthma drug Nucala, which received a resounding FDA rejection for use in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) last year, has shown promise in a rare blood disorder.

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Mer­ck buys a fledg­ling neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive biotech spawned by an old GSK dis­cov­ery al­liance. What’s up with that?

Avalon Ventures chief Jay Lichter has a well-known yen for drug development programs picked up in academia. And what he found in Haoxing Xu’s lab at the University of Michigan pricked his interest enough to launch one of his umbrella biotechs in San Diego.
Xu’s work laid the foundation for Avalon to launch Calporta, which has been working on finding small molecule agonists of TRPML1 (transient receptor potential cation channel, mucolipin subfamily, member 1) for lysosomal storage disorders. And that pathway, they believe, points to new approaches on major market neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, ALS and Alzheimer’s.

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FDA slaps a hold on an AML tri­al as Mark­er scraps a fail­ing ovar­i­an can­cer pro­gram, sink­ing shares

The FDA has placed a hold on a Phase II AML trial from the small immuno-oncology biotech Marker Therapeutics. Marker disclosed the issue two weeks after responding to FDA concerns, adding it to the Q3 release Tuesday. The company also announced it was scrapping a Phase II ovarian cancer program it determined was unlikely to succeed.

The agency’s concern centers around two reagents used in manufacturing for their trial for acute myeloid leukemia patients who have received a stem cell transplant. The reagents are from third parties and not present in the final product, Marker said.

Eli Lil­ly-backed biotech grabs $100M to dis­patch an­ti­body-oligonu­cleotide con­ju­gates af­ter mus­cu­lar dy­s­tro­phy

Hold up your hand. Make a fist. Now open it. And again.

If you can do it fully and with ease, then the proteins in your hand are likely working properly. If you can’t then they may not be. In people with myotonic muscular dystrophy, something more atomic is going on.

In those folks, the problem is RNA. Certain base pairs repeat far beyond normal, up to 11,000 superfluous letters in some cases. The extended strands form “clumps.” Proteins misform and can’t function properly. They often allow one movement but not the reverse, a condition called myotonia that gives the dystrophy its name.

As­traZeneca sets stage for mar­ket­ing ap­pli­ca­tion with promis­ing piv­otal lu­pus drug da­ta

After fumbling in its first late-stage lupus study, AstraZeneca disclosed that a second pivotal trial testing its experimental drug, anifrolumab, had met the main goal, in August. Earlier this week, the British drugmaker broke out the numbers from its successful study.

Last year, anifrolumab failed to meet the main goal of diminishing disease activity in the 460-patient TULIP I study, a 52-week trial that tested two doses of the drug versus a placebo. But in the 373-patient TULIP II study, the higher dose (300 mg) was compared to patients given a placebo — patients in both arms were on baseline standard care.

FDA Vas­cepa re­view spot­lights new safe­ty sig­nals, pos­si­ble min­er­al oil spoil­er as Amarin hunts a block­buster ap­proval

An in-house FDA review of Amarin’s Vascepa raises a set of hurdles the biotech will have to clear if the biotech expects to get the long-awaited FDA approval that could set it on a path to superstar status. But it appears that Amarin has survived another potential setback without introducing a major new threat to its prospects.

The stakes don’t get much higher, with analysts saying a win this week for Amarin could lead to billions in new sales — provided the agency stamps it with an OK. And investors liked what they say in the FDA review this morning, bumping the stock $AMRN 17%.

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FDA puts Sol­id Bio’s lead gene ther­a­py pro­gram on hold — again — af­ter an­oth­er pa­tient is hurt by SGT-001

Solid Biosciences continues to be plagued by safety issues.

Close to 18 months after the gene therapy biotech was able to quickly shed an FDA hold on their lead Duchenne muscular dystrophy program for SGT-001, regulators have stepped back in to force another halt after another patient was hit hard by a set of serious adverse events remarkably similar to the first set.

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