UCB builds on relationship with Microsoft with new AI deal; Sanofi partners with German AAV vector biotech
More biotechs are jumping on the AI bandwagon, and you can count UCB as one of them.
The Belgian company inked a “multi-year” deal with Microsoft on Tuesday, gaining access to its computational services, cloud and AI tech. The collaboration builds on work UCB did with Microsoft through the COVID Moonshot project, a crowdsourced initiative to accelerate the development of antiviral candidates.
“It’s one of the experiences that built up to this partnership,” CIO Herman De Prins said in an interview with Endpoints News.
There are three pillars to UCB’s approach to AI and advanced analytics tech, according to Roger Palframan, head of external innovation and US discovery science. Better understand the patient and their disease pathology, use that to identify better molecular targets that are driving the disease — which will bring about small molecules, biologic antibodies and gene therapies — and then develop those molecules faster.
“It’s about helping our people prioritize their decisions and make better decisions,” Palframan said. “It can save time, and… it’s maximizing the probability that our discovery investment will translate into a therapeutic that can benefit patients.”
AI can also be used to design better clinical trial protocols and optimize clinical development, he explained. For example, public data can be scoured to understand which hospitals are best suited for a trial.
UCB is the financial terms and exact length of the deal under wraps for now.
News of the Microsoft deal comes as more and more biotechs turn to AI for a smarter and faster way to get things done. Earlier this month, Dyno Therapeutics sketched out more than 100,000 viruses in a study meant to determine how many viable variants of the AAV2 capsid it could design with the aid of machine learning. And just last month, AbSci bought out Denovium and its AI engine with the goal of eventually being able to discover a drug and cell line at the click of a button.
“What we want to do is bring this much closer to the scientists who are making decisions, and really accelerate that discovery and development process and have those fast iteration cycles,” Palframan said. — Nicole DeFeudis
Sanofi partners with German AAV vector biotech
Sanofi has a new gene therapy partner.
The French pharma is teaming up with German outfit Sirion Biotech to develop improved tissue-selective AAV vectors for gene therapies. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Sirion said the collaboration will focus on disorders affecting major organs.
“This partnership adds to our expanding toolbox of technologies in the important, emerging area of gene therapeutics,” Sanofi genomic medicine chief Christian Mueller said in a statement.
Sirion was founded back in 2005 with the goal of creating new viral vector technologies for gene and cell therapies, as well as vaccines. Their proprietary technology platforms are based on lenti-, adeno-, and adeno-associated viruses. — Max Gelman
Novo Holdings snaps up CRO specializing in early drug development
Novo Holdings has scooped up an early drug development service provider in North America, with the goal of courting small and medium-sized biopharma clients.
Headquartered in Laval, Canada, Altasciences operates six facilities that run the gamut on early drug development: preclinical safety testing, clinical pharmacology, bioanalytical, CRO services, and even CDMO capacity. The current headcount is 1,300, Novo added.
Drug development services represent a “fast-growing market,” said Abhijeet Lele, senior partner, head of principal investments in the US at Novo Holdings.
Altasciences CEO Chris Perkin — who will continue leading the business unit, just like he has under the former owners at Audax Private Equity — said becoming a part of Novo will foster their ambitious growth plans, “given their exceptional reputation, track record, and broad portfolio of high-growth healthcare companies.” — Amber Tong