BenevolentAI starts AI collaboration with AstraZeneca to accelerate drug discovery

BenevolentAI is an AI company where AI actually means something. Founded in 2013, it focuses on “accelerating the journey from data to medicines.” To achieve that, it has raised a whopping $202 million to look at early drug discovery through to late-stage clinical development, and has a research facility in Cambridge, U.K. where there is plenty of AI talent to be had.

Today it has inked a long-term collaboration with pharma giant AstraZeneca to use AI and machine learning for the discovery and development of new treatments for chronic kidney disease (CKD) and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

The two organizations will begin collaboration between their respective teams to combine AstraZeneca’s genomics, chemistry and clinical data with BenevolentAI’s target identification platform and biomedical knowledge graph. This is designed to create a “network of contextualised scientific data” (genes, proteins, diseases and compounds) and to look at the relationship between them.

It’s a very big market. Global Market Insights estimates the global healthcare AI market will exceed $10 billion by 2024.

Joanna Shields, CEO of BenevolentAI, said: “Millions of people today suffer from diseases that have no effective treatment. The future of drug discovery and development lies in bridging the gap between AI, data, and biology. We are thrilled to be joining forces with AstraZeneca to develop new insights and identify promising new treatments for chronic kidney disease and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.”

Mene Pangalos, EVP and president, R&D BioPharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca, said: “The vast amount of data available to research scientists is growing exponentially each year. By combining AstraZeneca’s disease area expertise and large, diverse datasets with BenevolentAI’s leading AI and machine learning capabilities, we can unlock the potential of this wealth of data to improve our understanding of complex disease biology and identify new targets that could treat debilitating diseases.”

CKD and IPF are complex diseases in which the underlying disease biology is not well understood. As a result, the disease complexity requires the interrogation of vast, rich data sets. Hence, this partnership comes at an opportune time.

BenevolentAI has previously signed an exclusive license agreement with Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceutica for a series of clinical-stage drug candidates. It also discovered a drug that could delay the onset of motor neurone disease.