Pushing the frontier of drug discovery with the world’s most powerful supercomputer

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Frontier supercomputer. [Credit: ORNL]

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Frontier, the world’s first exascale supercomputer with its dizzying 1.1 exaflop speed, is a game-changer for scientific domains ranging from drug discovery to material science and oceanography. The computer holds the top spot on the TOP500 list, an independent ranking of the world’s most powerful supercomputers. “It’s like having a million laptops going into one core,” says Niven R. Narain, Ph.D., CEO of the biopharmaceutical company BPGbio. The company has forged an exclusive partnership with Oak Ridge that enables them to harness the staggering power of Frontier for drug discovery. “Things that historically would have taken us six to nine months to process, it’s like nine hours,” Narain said.

Access to Frontier “changed our company overnight,” Narain said. With…

Read more
  • 0

When will drug development have its ChatGPT moment? Inside ambitious AI initiatives at Sanofi and Medable

In episode 4 of Ai Meets Life Sci, Kayleen Brown, managing editor at DeviceTalks and Brian Buntz, pharma and biotech editor, chat with Helen Merianos, Ph.D., head of R+D portfolio strategy at Sanofi and Michelle Longmire, MD, CEO of Medable. The focus? The two-fold application of AI in their respective companies’ technologies, both for scientific advancement and business productivity, were central themes. Sanofi is applying AI across the company, encouraging an inquisitive culture around product development. AI also aids in making more data-driven investments across various domains. Medable is tapping AI to build a culture of invention as decentralized clinical trials become more operationalized and scalable.

Tune in and subscribe to AI Meets Life Sci on all major podcast channels and follow youtube.com/@DeviceTalks or AI Meets Life Sci YouTube Podcast to ensure you never miss an episode.

Sanofi embraces AI for improved decision-making

In a June 2023 press rele…

Read more
  • 0

Supercomputer-based Bayesian approach to AI pays dividends for BPGbio

In an AI hype-filled biopharma industry, one company is taking a back-to-basics yet supercomputer-powered approach — using Bayesian analysis on massive patient datasets to guide drug discovery. The company crunches trillions of data points per patient. “It’s massive, which is why we use a supercomputer,” said Niven R. Narain, Ph.D., BPGbio CEO. The company has an exclusive relationship with Oak Ridge National Labs, using its Frontier supercomputer to perform complex computational tasks, including the analysis of multi-omics data, the development of predictive models, and the simulation of biological systems. Frontier is hailed as the world’s first exascale supercomputer, meaning it can perform more than 1 quintillion calculations per second.

BPGbio’s AI-powered platform, known as NAi Interrogative Biology, illustrates its approach to drug and diagnostic discovery. The platform includes a lmassive biobank of multi-omi…

Read more
  • 0

Moving beyond buzzwords: When will a rising AI tide lift all Big Pharma boats?

[pdusit/Adobe Stock]

For all of the talk about AI in drug discovery and development, few Big Pharmas are putting up big bucks in AI spending. A CRB survey from late 2023 painted a conservative picture: about half of drug developers planned on allocating between $1 and $10 million for data and AI projects over the next two years. A mere 3% reported budgeting more than $50 million. No companies surveyed had budgeted more than $100 million.

By contrast, Microsoft has invested more than $10 billion into OpenAI alone. Amazon invested $4 billion into Anthropic for minority ownership and a board seat, while Google invested $2 billion plus potentially hundreds of millions more into Anthropic and Character AI for AI research and development. In early 2023, IDC projected that cumulative AI spending would reach $154 billion by the end of the year — 27% higher than a year earlier.

While a growing number of pharma and…

Read more
  • 0

Quantum promises a bright future for the pharma industry

[Production Perig/Adobe Stock]

Quantum computing technology continues to advance closer to an everyday reality. While the potential applications of quantum in certain sectors are more speculative, the pharmaceutical industry is poised to be transformed by quantum technology.This sector is likely to be the fastest to unlock the benefits of quantum computing, once the technology is fully realized. But how ready are companies in this sector for this revolution, and what changes can we expect?

The next generation of molecular modelling

The key to discovering new drugs involves testing and understanding the reactions between different materials and catalysts. Rather than relying solely on experiments in labs, scientists today also use computer aided drug design and molecular modellng to simulate these interactions and accelerate the discovery of new compounds.

However, even today’s most powerful supercomputers…

Read more
  • 0

Zai Lab’s unified approach to tackling cancer, autoimmune, and neurological diseases

Zai Lab is a global biopharmaceutical company founded in 2014 and based in China and the U.S.. Led by Chairperson and CEO Dr. Samantha Du, the company now has more than 2,000 employees internationally.

Focusing on developing novel therapies for oncology, autoimmune disorders, infectious diseases, and neurological disorders, it has built a broad pipeline of late-stage drug candidates, five of which have been approved and launched in China. The company also has internal research and development capabilities to advance its discovery pipeline.

The company is strategically partnering with prominent biopharma organizations such as Amgen, GSK, Seagen, BMS, Mirati and Deciphera. Concurrently, Zai Lab is building a proprietary pipeline across therapeutic areas such asoncology, autoimmune disorders, infectious diseases, and neuroscience.

In this email Q&A, we heard from Josh Smiley, president and chief operating officer of Zai Lab, and Dr. Harald Reinhart, pre…

Read more
  • 0

Genmab’s data-driven strategies speed up drug commercialization

[Adobe Stock]

Genmab’s senior vice president, global head of data science and AI, Hisham Hamadeh, describes the company’s journey to becoming “a data-driven decision-making company.” In one sense, there is little choice but to do so. “We’re swimming in data like never before. We’ve seen the volumes of data, the ability to compute on that data, and the type of algorithms that are emerging,” he said. 

The initiative has the firm support of the company’s CEO Jan G. J. van de Winkel, who expects AI to help enhance R&D efficiency in the coming years. Already, the company has succeeded in winning FDA approval for the antibody epcoritamab in lymphoma within five years after the first patient was dosed. The approval timeline was “a world record,” van de Winkel told Medwatch, adding that the company believes its investments in data science will unlock further breakthrou…

Read more
  • 0

50 of the best-funded biotechs of 2023

[Adobe Stock]

As the year draws to a close, it is clear that molecular science and diagnostics is the hottest funding area in the biotech industry. In an analysis of 50 of the best-funded biotechs of 2023 focused on human health, molecular and science and diagnostics startups collectively attracting roughly $945 million, dwarfing the figures in other segments. The next popular two niches, gene therapies and oncology, had average funding levels of approximately $245 million and $170 million, respectively. While AI has received a significant amount of attention this year, biotechs specializing in that field garnered an average funding of only about $66 million. Outside of the life sciences, startups with a broader focus on AI raised a cumulative average of $202.47 million, based on an analysis of close to 1000 companies.

Caris Life Sciences has raised nearly $1.7B to date

In terms of best-funded companies overall,…

Read more
  • 0

Quantum leaps in drug discovery? NobleAI joins forces with Microsoft while King’s College London aligns with Kvantify

[Production Perig/Adobe Stock]

The word “revolutionize” gets thrown around a lot in describing the potential of emerging technologies. But quantum computing could make good on the promise to disrupt healthcare applications ranging from drug discovery to medical imaging. Theoretically, a quantum computer with 300 quantum bits (qubits) could crunch more calculations in an instant than there are atoms in the visible universe. Because qubits can exist in multiple states at once, quantum computers can bring powerful parallel processing to fields where exploring a vast solution space is required, including drug discovery and material science.

It’s no wonder that the computing branch, which remains in its infancy, is attracting a growing amount of attention as it inches towards practical applicability. In May, Insilico Medicine said it was exploring the use of quantum computing and generative AI to help ide…

Read more
  • 0

NLP in drug discovery and the quest for the ‘right’ research elements

[Kishore Newton/Adobe Stock]

In drug discovery and development, data sources are as diverse as they are plentiful. There are comprehensive databases brimming with molecular targets, cellular processes, genomic sequences, proteomic profiles, and metabolite patterns that shed light on disease pathways. Data possibilities in the patient care realm are similarly vast, spanning electronic medical records, imaging datasets, and even patient-reported outcomes and adverse events reported on social media. The biomedical research site PubMed has tens of millions of research articles and studies. 

Yet, it’s easier to drown in such turbulent data volumes than it is to swim. Various estimates over the past decade have projected that 80% of healthcare data are unstructured. “There’s a huge amount of information that’s not standardized,” said Jane Reed, director of life sciences with Linguamatics, an IQVIA company.…

Read more
  • 0

Novo Nordisk stops once-weekly semaglutide kidney outcomes trial early following interim analysis

Novo Nordisk will halt the phase 3b FLOW trial, which investigated the effects of once-weekly injectable semaglutide on kidney outcomes in individuals with type 2 diabetes (T2D) and chronic kidney disease (CKD).

The company reached the decision following the recommendation of the independent Data Monitoring Committee (DMC), following an interim analysis that met pre-specified criteria for stopping the trial early for efficacy. The company noted that it would maintain the integrity of the trial data, blinding to the results until the trial’s completion. It plans on announcing results in the first half of 2024.

Semaglutide Sales: 2022 vs H1 2023 google.charts.load('current', {'packages':['corechart']}); google.charts.setOnLoadCallback(drawChart); function drawChart() { var data = google.visualization.arrayToDataTable([ ['Drug Name with Brand', '2022 Sales', 'H1 2023 Sales'], …
Read more
  • 0

Cellarity CEO: AI will fail in drug discovery unless we decode complex disease biology

[Credit: Cellarity]

The traditional drug discovery approach is broken, but so too are the approaches of many AI-focused organizations seeking to reboot the process. That’s the perspective of Fabrice Chouraqui, CEO of Cellarity and CEO Partner at the investment firm Flagship Pioneering, which played a role in launching Moderna in 2010. While a growing number of companies are focused on using AI to streamline drug discovery, the approach is still something like gambling with long odds. Traditional drug developers tend to “place a bet on a single molecular target very early on,” he said.

Despite the dizzying pace of scientific development, the fundamental approach of drug discovery has seen limited evolution. While  organizations are exploring strategies to redefine the process, they often bring a new tool to an existing process. With new technologies like AI, the initial thought is often to apply it to famil…

Read more
  • 0