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.

Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

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Part club, part guide, part land­lord: Arie Bellde­grun is blue­print­ing a string of be­spoke biotech com­plex­es in glob­al boom­towns — start­ing with Boston

The biotech industry is getting a landlord, unlike anything it’s ever known before.

Inspired by his recent experiences scrounging for space in Boston and the Bay Area, master biotech builder, investor, and global dealmaker Arie Belldegrun has organized a new venture to build a new, 250,000 square foot biopharma building in Boston’s Seaport district — home to Vertex and a number of up-and-coming biotech players.

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Novotech CRO Ex­pands Chi­na Team as Biotech De­mand for Clin­i­cal Tri­als In­creas­es up to 79%

An increase in demand of up to 79% for clinical trials in China has prompted Novotech the Asia-Pacific CRO to rapidly expand the China team, appointing expert local clinical executives to their Shanghai and Hong Kong offices. The company is planning to expand their team by 30% over the next quarter.

Novotech China has seen considerable demand recently which is borne out by research from GlobalData:
A global migration of clinical research is occurring from high-income countries to low and middle-income countries with emerging economies. Over the period 2017 to 2018, for example, the number of clinical trial sites opened by biotech companies in Asia-Pacific increased by 35% compared to 8% in the rest of the world, with growth as high as 79% in China.
Novotech CEO Dr John Moller said China offers the largest population in the world, rapid economic growth, and an increasing willingness by government to invest in research and development.
Novotech’s 23 years of experience working in the region means we are the ideal CRO partner for USA biotechs wanting to tap the research expertise and opportunities that China offers.
There are over 22,000 active investigators in Greater China, with about 5,000 investigators with experience on at least 3 studies (source GlobalData).

On a glob­al romp, Boehringer BD team picks up its third R&D al­liance for Ju­ly — this time fo­cused on IPF with $50M up­front

Boehringer Ingelheim’s BD team is on a global deal spree. The German pharma company just wrapped its third deal in 3 weeks, going back to Korea for its latest pipeline pact — this time focused on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

They’re handing over $50 million to get their hands on BBT-877, an ATX inhibitor from Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics that was on display at a science conference in Dallas recently. There’s not a whole lot of data to evaluate the prospects here.

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Servi­er scoots out of an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Macro­Gen­ics, writ­ing off their $40M

Servier is walking out on a partnership with MacroGenics $MGNX — for the second time.

After the market closed on Wednesday MacroGenics put out word that Servier is severing a deal — inked close to 7 years ago — to collaborate on the development of flotetuzumab and other Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) drugs in its pipeline.

MacroGenics CEO Scott Koenig shrugged off the departure of Servier, which paid $20 million to kick off the alliance and $20 million to option flotetuzumab — putting a heavily back-ended $1 billion-plus in additional biobuck money on the table for the anti-CD123/CD3 bispecific and its companion therapies.

Den­mark's Gen­mab hits the jack­pot with $500M+ US IPO as small­er biotechs rake in a com­bined $147M

Danish drugmaker Genmab A/S is off to the races with perhaps one of the biggest biotech public listings in decades, having reaped over $500 million on the Nasdaq, as it positions itself as a bonafide player in antibody-based cancer therapies.

The company, which has long served as J&J’s $JNJ key partner on the blockbuster multiple myeloma therapy Darzalex, has asserted it has been looking to launch its own proprietary product — one it owns at least half of — by 2025.

FDA over­rides ad­comm opin­ions a fifth of the time, study finds — but why?

For drugmakers, FDA advisory panels are often an apprehended barometer of regulators’ final decisions. While the experts’ endorsement or criticism often translate directly to final outcomes, the FDA sometimes stun observers by diverging from recommendations.

A new paper out of Milbank Quarterly put a number on that trend by analyzing 376 voting meetings and subsequent actions from 2008 through 2015, confirming the general impression that regulators tend to agree with the adcomms most of the time — with discordances in only 22% of the cases.

Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

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