Insilico Medicine has been given approval for human trials of their completely AI-generated drug.
The drug has been designed as a potential treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) which is a degenerative disease that causes scarring and thickening of the lung tissues. IPF affects around 100,000 people in the US alone. The new drug, called INS018_055, will be trialed for 12 weeks in China with expanded trials planned for China and the US.
Insilico is a Hong Kong based biotech company that uses AI to develop new medicines as well as in anti-aging research. The application of AI in their research has allowed for much faster development of new drugs.
“AI allows us to analyze massive quantities of data and find connections that human scientists might miss, and then ‘imagine’ entirely new molecules that can be turned into drugs,” said Alex Zhavoronkov, Founder and CEO of Insilico Medicine.
The company uses AI in each step of its drug development strategy. They first use their AI-powered tool, called PandaOmics, to identify a “target” or biological cause linked to a specific disease. For example, the target could be a gene or protein that isn’t functioning correctly.
Once they identify a target, they use their other AI platform, Chemistry42, to design a molecule that will rectify the issue by blocking the target without causing harm to the patient.
In this case, the “55” in the drug name refers to the 55th molecule that was designed and showed promise.
The Phase II trials that have been approved aim to see if the drug produces a significant response in the first participants. If successful it will then move to Phase III trials to confirm safety and effectiveness before FDA approval can be given.
Insilico Medicine has a number of interesting AI drug developments in the pipeline. The FDA has recently approved the initial investigational new drug (IND) application for their anti-cancer drug that targets solid tumors. Phase I trials are planned for July 2023 in the US and China.
When we hear about generative AI we normally think of images, songs, or text being generated. But Insilico is using generative AI to identify the targets that cause a disease and then designing molecules that address those targets directly.
If you asked ChatGPT what proteins could be targeted to treat a specific kind of breast cancer it could identify them because it has access to published medical research. Insilico has its own LLM called ChatPandaGPT that allows researchers to use natural language queries to sift through a specialized knowledge base of large amounts of clinical data.
Using AI in medicine is helping companies like Insilico to dramatically shorten the drug discovery process. Their research pipeline has an exciting lineup of potential treatments for different kinds of cancer as well as a COVID-19 drug that is also in Phase I trials.