AION LabsThe goal of using AI to transform drug discovery and development may not be novel. But a recent alliance is unique in both the stature of companies belonging to it and its choice of an innovation model.

Big Pharma firms AstraZeneca (LON:AZN), Merck KGaA (ETR: MRK), Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and Teva (NYSE:TEVA) will partner with Amazon Web Services Inc. (NSDQ:AMZN) and the Israel Biotech Fund (IBF) on what they term a “first-of-its-kind innovation lab” known as AION Labs.

“The launch of AION Labs will provide an opportunity for the healthcare and life sciences industry to uncover new ways to reduce the time and cost for discovery, facilitate open collaboration and interoperability, and ultimately improve patients’ health outcomes,” said Dan Sheeran, director of healthcare and life sciences at Amazon Web Services, in a statement.

AION Labs has also formed a strategic partnership with the biomedical research institute BioMed X (Heidelberg, Germany).

The lab is the result of the Israel Innovation Authority’s decision in December 2020 to spearhead new ways to drive growth in life sciences.

While AI and cloud computing hold immense potential for drug discovery and development, drug companies have just scratched the surface given the challenges involved in deploying those technologies at scale.

Rather than focusing on deploying AI and computational biology in Big Pharma settings, AION Labs will seed and invest in early-stage startups focused on those technologies. The lab will offer resources and mentorship, and consult with them on identifying core challenges to address in the pharma space.

The startups will tap cloud-based AI to accelerate drug discovery, avoid animal experiments and enable patient-centered precision medicine.

To that end, the AION Labs headquarters will pair a wet lab for biomedical research with a cloud-based computational lab

A former senior exec at AION Labs, Mati Gill, will be CEO of the lab while the computational biology expert Yair Benita will be CTO.