Pfizer strengthens AI drug discovery collaboration with equity investment

By Ben Hargreaves

- Last updated on GMT

© chombosan / Getty Images
© chombosan / Getty Images

Related tags: Pfizer, A.I., Artificial intelligence, machine learning

Pfizer and CytoReason have been partnered on artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies for drug discovery and development since 2019. The latest deal brings the companies closer.

The extension sees Pfizer sign a five-year commercial agreement with CytoReason, which involves the former company paying a $90m (€90m) fee to gain access to the latter’s artificial intelligence technology. Pfizer will also make a $20m equity investment as part of the agreement.

Beyond backing CytoReason financially, Pfizer also has the option to license the technology platform and disease models, as well as to fund supplementary project support.

CytoReason is an Israeli company that uses AI to create disease models for drug discovery and development. It is staffed by a mixture of biologists, bioinformaticians and data engineers. The platform itself allows companies to prioritize new targets, find biomarkers, and predict which patients may respond best to treatments.

According to the companies, Pfizer has used the platform to gain insights into R&D programs across 20 disease areas – though the release specifically mentions its use for immune-mediated and immuno-oncology purposes.

CEO of CytoReason, David Harel, previously told Outsourcing-Pharma, “CytoReason develops computational disease models that feed on a growing repository of public and proprietary clinical data. Our platform gives different people in the organization – biologists, bioinformaticians, program directors – one place to manage their drug programs and to compare them across patients, diseases, and other drugs in the market.”

An evolving relationship

When the two partners initially signed on to work together in 2019​, Pfizer had already been assessing CytoReason’s capabilities for several months to judge the strength of the offering.

It seems the collaboration has continued in this vein, with a further extension signed earlier this year​, before this most recent update. Upon making the first agreement, CytoReason stated that it would be paid “low double-digit millions,” which makes the most recently signed deal an upgrade financially.

Pfizer is not the only company that is working with CytoReason, with the technology company stating that it works with five of the top 10 pharma companies.

One of those partners is Sanofi, which tapped CytoReason to use its AI models to gain insights into asthma. At the time​, the companies announced that the purpose of the project was to understand common factors facing asthma patients to identify stable, reproducible endotypes.

Further explaining how the technology company operates, Harel explained to Outsourcing-Pharma, “Our computational model of asthma helps to identify commonalities in patient subgroups, which will allow pharma companies to identify appropriate drugs, as well as bring them closer to precision medicine.”

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