Janssen collaborates with French startup for AI-powered drug discovery

By Maggie Lynch

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/ipopba)
(Image: Getty/ipopba)

Related tags Janssen AI France Drug discovery Biopharmaceutical Technology

Janssen and Iktos Pharmaceuticals enter an agreement to bolster small molecule discovery using virtual drug design technology.

Iktos, a French company specializing in artificial intelligence (AI) for drug design, signed an agreement with Janssen to develop new applications using its generative models for small molecule discovery.

Read: AI for drug discovery will be driven by biopharma and the rise of Asian tigers, says Insilico CEO

Yann Gaston-Mathe, co-founder and CEO of Iktos Pharmaceuticals, told us that Janssen identified deep generative models as an important technology for drug discovery, and decided to partner to both implement and accelerate the deployment of this technology.

“Doing it internally would have required more time, and time is of the essence in this business,”​ said Gaston-Mathe.

Currently, the AI company is developing a deep learning generative model solution that uses existing data to design molecules that are then optimized in silico​. Per the partnership, Iktos will leverage its virtual drug design technology to support several of Janssen’s small molecule drug discovery projects.

Gaston-Mathe added, “It is very clear that AI technology has a great potential in drug discovery, especially in companies which have invested a lot in generating, managing, and exploiting important amounts of screening data on a large quantity of compounds.”

This collaboration “will undoubtedly have a major impact on the productivity of small drug discovery at Janssen,” ​said According to Gaston-Mathe. “[Janssen] will need to make and test fewer compounds to identify suitable candidates, and more importantly they will save a lot of time, which is critical in this business.”

Iktos is collaborating with multiple biopharmaceutical companies and will offer a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform, Makya, following beta testing expected to be complete in mid-2019.

AI links up with drug discovery

Within the last few months, big players in the pharma industry have been teaming up to establish AI companies to support drug discovery.

Bayer and Cylica​, a Bayer G4A company, began a collaboration in November 2018 to advance drug discovery by looking into polypharmacological profiles of small molecules through AI technology. Similarly, Charles River and Atomwise​ formed a strategic alliance to accelerate drug discovery with the latter’s structure-based drug design technology, which is powered by AI.

Medidata​ also recently launched Acorn AI to address questions across drug development and accelerate clinical trials by deciphering data through AI.

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