How will AI Transform Longevity and Drug Discovery?
A look into Insilico Medicine
Image: Alex (Aleksandrs Zavoronkovs) Zhavoronkov
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I’ve been trying to study AI in drug discovery and longevity science and there are a lot of promising startups.
One that caught my attention is called Insilico Medicine. What I find fascinating about them is how globally diversified they are.
Insilico Medicine - On the Cross roads of Longevity and A.I.
Insilico Medicine is an artificial intelligence company headquartered in Hong Kong, with R&D and management resources in the USA, China, Canada, UAE, Belgium, UK, and Taiwan sourced through hackathons and competitions.
I believe this company is on a very lucrative intersection of both longevity science and AI in drug development. As they grow I expect them to get funding from the Middle East and develop talent in places like Montreal, Canada.
Here is a video I found of the CEO that’s relatively recent:
On November 10th, 2022 it seems Insilico Medicine signed a $1.2 billion strategic research collaboration with Sanofi. The company has over $400 million in funding, which is weird right, many of us have never heard of them.
While Insilico Medicine develops an AI platform for drug development to treat cancer and age-related diseases, it’s also pivoting and continues to find product-market fit. Just like Venture Capital is in a difficult economic climate, some admit there is a biotech winter. Yet Insilico seems to be thriving even in these conditions.
AI-as-a-Service in Big Pharma
Insilico could also enable other companies to leverage AI in drug development and optimize how they do it. For example, Sanofi has expanded its AI-based drug delivery foothold, and adds Insilico to a line-up that includes Owkin and Exscientia.
Under the terms of the agreement, Sanofi will pay Insilico a total of up to $21.5 million covering the upfront and target nomination fees to benefit from Insilico’s end-to-end Pharma.AI platform and gain access to a team of interdisciplinary drug discovery scientists to identify, synthesise and advance high-quality lead therapeutic compounds up to development candidate stage.
Insilico, which maintains operations in both New York and Hong Kong, says its technology analyzes data to discover signatures of diseases and identify promising targets for already existing molecules or new ones that can be designed. It aims to accelerate three areas of drug development: disease target identification, generation of novel data about molecules, and predicting clinical trial outcomes.
As you know I’m very passionate about the impact of AI in healthcare over the next few decades and we haven’t talked much specifically about A.I. in drug development and longevity and well-being.
Carrying Momentum in A.I. Drug Development
Insilico’s internal pipeline spans more than 30 programs addressing more than 20 targets in fibrosis, oncology, and immunology.
I’m starting to get bullish on what Insilico might become. I’d consider it an acquisition target for someone like Amazon or Google in the mid term depending on how things go. In June, 2021 they had a $255 million Series C.
Is A.I. in Drug Development Realistic?
Insilico Medicine is a Hong Kong-based company founded in 2014 around one central premise: that AI-assisted systems can identify novel drug targets for untreated diseases, assist in the development of new treatments and eventually predict how well those treatments may perform in clinical trials.
The AI in Drug development space is really showing momentum heading into 2023.
In 2020, the company identified a novel drug target for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a disease in which tiny air sacs in the lungs become scarred, which makes breathing laborious.
They also did a series-D in June, 2022.
Their Upcoming Event
This is not a sponsored post, though I am tempted to try to learn more about them at their event. Have you 📢heard📢 yet?
Their head of A.I. is my from home town of Montreal. The event is on November, 14th, 2022.
There isn't much time left! ⌛️ (I’m writing this on the Friday before)
️Register to secure your seat and learn more about Insilico's advances in #AI-powered drug discovery alongside leaders in the space Alex Zhavoronkov, Jensen Huang, bud mishra, Jeffrey Rothstein, and Nobel prize winner Dr. Michael Levitt.
See you at the upcoming Pharma.AI Virtual 🚀#Launch🚀 Event on Nov. 14, 9AM ET!
How the company is involved in aging, longevity and that luxury element of the business (apparently that many Billionaires are interested in) is of peculiar curiosity to the transhumanist in me. I’ve watched documentaries where Hong Kong and Singapore is showing a great interest in the future of longevity research.
Insilico Medicine’s Progress
Insilico has published more than 130 peer-reviewed papers and built a suite of tools that they and other companies use to search for treatments.
They’re currently conducting a phase 1 clinical trial for a small molecule they designed to treat the lung-scarring disease idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which they developed at a COVID-19-vaccine-like pace. It took them just 30 months to identify the target, design a drug candidate, and conduct preclinical testing before moving into human trials.
I believe they have in the area of 200 employees. Insilico was founded by a scientist named Alex Zhavoronkov, whose mission is not just to cure individual diseases but to increase longevity. Biotechnology, genomics and AI will take a while to get moving but once they do, precision and personalized medicine may change human aging as we know it.
Insilico also plans to expand globally, specifically in locations in Montreal and Abu Dhabi. Zhavoronkov was particularly excited about the growth plans in the Middle East in interviews I read, especially considering that Insilico closed up its R&D operations in eastern Europe amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Montreal has a ton of A.I. talent and many BigTech companies have hubs there for that reason. The Middle East is getting more ambitious founding Hi-Tech cities and investing in things like A.I.
Zhavoronkov is Latvian and his vision is pretty interesting.
Insilico Medicine made the list of CB Insights AI/100 List.
You can find them in the Healthcare category as seen above!
Another competitive advantage I think they have is around half of their employees are located in China, so they are in tune with both the West and China with regards to A.I.
Zhavoronkov moved to Canada and earned two degrees at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. After university, Zhavoronkov worked in the computer chip industry, first in Canada, then in Germany. He thrived in higher learning settings: doing a physics PhD at Moscow State University and a master’s degree in biotechnology at Johns Hopkins University. Zhavoronkov’s first project at Johns Hopkins was to develop the nonprofit International Aging Research Portfolio, still active at AgingPortfolio.org.
Researchers can now look at the efficacy of $2 trillion spent in the area. At Insilico, Zhavoronkov uses the aging portfolio to direct attention toward promising but underfunded areas. The TAM of the area is going to increase gradually to very high levels as A.I., biotech, genomics and drug-discovery related technologies all evolve simultaneously.
The global artificial intelligence in drug discovery market size was estimated at USD 897.6 million in 2021 and is expected to reach USD 1.1 billion in 2022.
Insilico Medicine is one of those startups that seems dedicated to a new vision of A.I’s role in our future health and aging process. Alex’s Google Scholar is impressive as well. Just as Quantum computing startups partner with Cloud providers, it’s only natural Longevity startups with partner with Big Pharma. Sanofi, has a market cap itself of about $110 Billion. They are a French multinational pharmaceutical and healthcare company headquartered in Paris, France.
A.I. will Speed up Drug Design 100x
Drug design needs the order, clarity, speed and efficiency that A.I. can provide. I like the way Alex put it: Drug design is kind of a crapshoot.
In a press release about their fibrosis drug candidate, Insilico declared, “We are proud to contribute to the transition of the pharmaceutical industry from an oftentimes unpredictable, serendipity-driven and organizationally disconnected drug discovery environment, which resembles a drug hunter’s craftsmanship, towards a more predictable AI-driven process—essentially, a move towards industrialized drug discovery.”
On its LinkedIn page, Insilico Medicine stats it talks about #drugdiscovery, #ai, #GANs, #GANs-RL, #DL #aging, #longevity. While the future of A.I. at the intersection of longevity is bright, it’s going to take a long time to get there.
Insilico Medicine develops software that leverages generative models, reinforcement learning (RL), and other modern machine learning techniques to generate new molecular structures with specific properties. It’s a very “A.I.-native” company. With my interest in startups, venture capital and A.I. trends, it’s only a matter of time before I do a proper survey of this field.
I’m a bit surprised we don’t have more public A.I. companies out of China itself in the biotechnology space. The event is also their AI platform update, a bit “unveil” if you will.
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