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Francis deSouza, Illumina CEO (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Il­lu­mi­na con­tin­ues trek in­to drug dis­cov­ery, inks AI pact with As­traZeneca

As it continues to fight for its merger with Grail, an early-detection cancer test company, the sequencing behemoth Illumina is making another push into drug development.

Tuesday morning, Illumina and AstraZeneca announced a partnership for AI drug discovery. Illumina will pitch in two AI tools — PrimateAI, which predicts diseases from mutations using primate data, and SpliceAI, which predicts how pre-mRNA sequences are cut. AstraZeneca brings its own set of AI tools, including JARVIS, which looks at non-coding genes. The initial phase of the collaboration is set to go for six months, after which “the two companies will assess opportunities for a long-term partnership,” Illumina’s chief strategy officer Joydeep Goswami told Endpoints News in an email.

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Ramy Farid, Schrödinger CEO

An AI, err ma­chine learn­ing, shop lines up Eli Lil­ly as part­ner ahead of first in-house clin­i­cal tri­al

Life sciences software developer and drug discovery outfit Schrödinger, during its “platform day,” outlined its programs and path forward two months after bringing on board long-time biotech analyst Geoffrey Porges, who told Endpoints News on his first day that the company’s story had been “over-simplified.”

As part of telling its story on Thursday, which included slides of Schrödinger cats, the New York-based company disclosed another partner, adding to the dozen or so collaborations in the works at Schrödinger.

David Harel, CytoReason CEO

Tout­ing nine-fig­ure deal pack­age, Pfiz­er ex­tends col­lab­o­ra­tion with AI part­ner

More than two years after Pfizer tied the knot with machine learning firm CytoReason in an AI-focused deal, the two companies have agreed to keep the partnership alive for at least five more years.

CytoReason, a Big Pharma partner in its own right with Sanofi, Merck and Roche as clients, announced the extension on Tuesday, elaborating more on the company’s partnership with the Big Pharma giant that has been ongoing since before Pfizer’s historic Covid-19 vaccine Comirnaty.

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Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, Novo Nordisk Foundation CEO

No­vo Nordisk Foun­da­tion is­sues $200M grant to ap­ply quan­tum com­put­ing to life sci­ences, drug dis­cov­ery

The Novo Nordisk Foundation, the large Danish charity that owns the pharmaceutical company of the same name, is making a quantum leap.

Making a deep investment into what it believes is the future of life sciences, the foundation is ponying up $200 million to try to develop the world’s first quantum computer designed to develop new drugs. Novo issued the money in the form of a grant to launch the “Novo Nordisk Foundation Quantum Computing Programme” in tandem with the University of Copenhagen.

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Mi­crosoft sinks deep­er in­to drug AI, inks col­lab with di­a­betes gi­ant No­vo Nordisk

It now appears that Microsoft wants to take on diabetes.

In its latest foray into the drugmaking world, the tech giant has signed a five-year pact with Novo Nordisk, one of the three major insulin manufacturers. The exact details of the partnership are vague (as most AI partnership announcements tend to be), but in short, Novo Nordisk will be paying Microsoft for its AI to speed drug development.

According to the press release, the collaboration has already made strides on two fronts: (1) summarizing scientific research, and (2) to study atherosclerosis — a major complication of diabetes.

Andrew Hopkins, Exscientia CEO

Ex­sci­en­tia ter­mi­nates Bay­er pact half a year ear­ly, col­lect­ing small por­tion of €240M promised

Bayer and Exscientia are winding down their three-year collaboration, leaving the big German pharma to take the AI-designed compounds born out of the pact further.

London-based Exscientia revealed in its Q2 update that the partners have “mutually agreed to end” their collaboration, which kicked off in early 2020, after recently achieving a drug discovery milestone. In an SEC filing, Exscientia said it terminated the pact on May 30, about six months early.

Atomwise CEO and co-founder Abraham Heifets (left) and co-founder Izhar Wallach

A cou­ple bil­lion for Ex­sci­en­tia was on­ly part of Sanofi's AI am­bi­tions, as the Big Phar­ma adds Atom­wise to the ta­ble

Sanofi made clear its AI ambitions were real at the beginning of this year when the Big Pharma took its drug discovery collaboration with Exscientia to the next level, inking a pact that could birth 15 drugs and deliver $5.3 billion to the UK partner.

Seven months later, the AI blueprint is far from over at the French Big Pharma, as another of the much-hyped drug discovery startups is coming to the table in a five-drug deal. Sanofi will pay Atomwise $20 million to kick off the hunt for up to five targets, which are aimed at leading to the creation of new small molecules. Another $1 billion is on the line — as are royalties — and the companies kept mum on the specific diseases or broader therapeutic areas of interest.

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Ali Ansary, Ozette Technologies CEO

A new AI start­up, launched with a trio of Fred Hutch vets, wants to give a 'zoomed-in' view of can­cer cells

Ali Ansary, a trained physician, had realized by 2018 that cancers would no longer be treated just with traditional chemotherapy and radiations. Immunotherapy was becoming big, and yet there was no way for doctors to get a complete picture of how immune cells worked at the cellular level when used for cancer therapy, he says.

“How do we get to know more information about this system that is more than inflammatory markers?” he wondered.

Demis Hassabis, DeepMind CEO (Qianlong/Imaginechina via AP Images)

Up­dat­ed: Deep­Mind's Al­phaFold now con­tains struc­ture of 200M pro­teins. What does that mean for drug R&D?

When AlphaFold first came out, it debuted with the promise of increasing the number of protein structures that could be predicted, a move that had eluded researchers for decades and could prove to become a crucial step to moving drug development to a new height.

Now, AlphaFold says its database of protein structures has been massively expanded.

Google’s AI outfit and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) announced Thursday that DeepMind’s AlphaFold database now contains the structures of more than 200 million proteins. It’s a substantial jump from where it was a year ago when DeepMind announced that it had predicted the structure of only about 350,000 proteins.

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Alex Zhavoronkov (L) and Jeffrey Rothstein (Insilico/Johns Hopkins)

As ALS pa­tients unite around Amy­lyx, a new pa­per hints at po­ten­tial drug­gable tar­gets

ALS is a debilitating, universally fatal disease. As motor neurons die, patients lose their abilities to walk, cut their own food, swallow and eventually, breathe. Most patients die within three to five years of symptom onset, and there are few approved treatments that only modestly impact function and survival.

Though patients and advocates have rallied around an experimental drug from Amylyx Pharmaceuticals, currently being reviewed by the FDA, they continue to emphasize how more work needs to be done. Research into ALS pathology remains scant relative to other fields, as scientists have yet to discover a confirmed biomarker that measures patients’ progress and have only identified a handful of genetic targets implicated in the disease.

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