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article imageUsing AI to speed drug discovery

By Tim Sandle     May 6, 2018 in Science
Toronto - A new healthcare startup venture, formed from University of Toronto researchers, has raised sufficient capital to begin developing a program to assess existing research in order to speed up new medicinal drug discovery.
The biomedical startup was founded by University of Toronto alumni David Q. Chen, Elvis Wianda, Liran Belenzon, Tom Leung.So far the venture has raised US$8 million, contributed by a group of investors including Montreal’s iNovia Capital and Google’s Gradient Ventures (which is Alphabet’s AI venture capital firm). The new company is called BenchSci and it aims to use artificial intelligence to scan through millions of data points, drawn from published research papers, in order to find new compounds that can help to accelerate the drug discovery process.
The focus of the new venture is with finding commercial antibodies. The researchers spent two years building machine learning software that can extract antibody usage data from published figures. This involves decoding millions of papers, with the end result of making the data easily discoverable for scientists.
BenchSci is described as a reagent intelligence platform. The artificial intelligence transforms published data into experiment-specific recommendations. This considerably lowers time, money and uncertainty involved planning materials and methods, as part of the scientific experiments required for drug discovery.
According to Ankit Jain, Gradient’s founding partner and a director of engineering with Google, who has invested in the project, this technology is needed. He told The Globe and Mail: "These are drugs that are much needed by the community for some of the most serious ailments out there."
And in terms of BenchSci: "They’ve laid the groundwork for something very impactful across drug discovery and literature in this space."
In related news, both artificial intelligence and blockchain are being used to help counteract soaring drug prices (see: "AI and blockchain can counteract soaring drug prices"). Here such technologies can help researchers generate more accurate hypotheses faster, making the drug discovery process less expensive and more effective.
More about drug discovery, drug development, Artificial intelligence
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