Researchers develop faster drug discovery tech

Scientists have developed a new technology for drug discovery that dramatically accelerates the process from years to weeks.

Nigeria’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Longevity Consultant at the Africa AI for Healthcare Initiative of Insilico Medicine, Iraneus Ogu, made the disclosure while fielding questions from newsmen during the International Conference on Global Health Security in Abuja.

He said the AI technology, called Generative Tensorial Reinforcement Learning (GENTRL), can help Nigeria and other developing nations in Africa build their own globally significant pharmaceutical industries by leapfrogging years of pharmaceutical R&D. He said it could also compensate for inadequate local talent.

Ogu said with the technology, health professionals and scientists could now start their own drug discovery companies to help improve healthcare in the country, adding that Insilico has made GENTRL’s source code available as open source.

He also said the AI system designs the molecules and that the experiments can be performed by the CROs worldwide, adding that Insilico successfully tested the technology by creating a series of entirely new molecules capable of combating disorders like fibrosis.

Ogu added that the same technique could be applied to other diseases especially neglected tropical diseases.

The consultant explained that normal drug discovery starts with the testing of thousands of small molecules to get to just a few lead-like ones that can pass clinical trials in human patients. Using the new AI technique makes it possible to generate potential drug candidates within a very short period of time, and at much lower costs.

Quoting Insilico Medicine Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Alex Zhavoronkov, Ogu said, “with GENTRL’s successful experimentation and validation, Insilico has moved the use of AI for drug discovery from academic theory to reality; from what many thought was scientifically impossible to what is now possible.”

“When we first proposed the idea of using the AI technique of generative adversarial networks to accelerate drug discovery in 2016, most of the industries were skeptical.

“By enabling the rapid discovery of novel molecules and by making GENTRL’s source code open source, we are ushering in new possibilities for the creation and discovery of new life-saving medicines for incurable diseases — and making such powerful technology more broadly accessible for the first time to the public,” he stated.




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