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Collaborative AI Partnership Hopes To Shape the Future of Drug Discovery

Female scientist tapping on a digital tablet performing pharmaceutical industry research and data analysis
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Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to revolutionize drug discovery, from identifying promising drug targets to optimizing clinical trial design.

A new first-in-class AI collaboration between Sanofi, Formation Bio and OpenAI brings together data, software and tuned models to build AI-powered software to help accelerate drug development.

Bringing life-changing therapies to market, faster

The impact of AI on drug discovery is already evident with the first drug claimed to be discovered and designed by generative AI, INS018_055, entering Phase 2 clinical trials with patients.

Speaking to Technology Networks about the benefits of AI in drug discovery, Sanofi said, “In 2023, thanks to AI, Sanofi R&D teams identified 90 new targets and advanced 7 targets in the pipeline, and AI was applied to 75% of the small-molecule drug discovery portfolio. Virtual patient engines helped accelerate molecules in 12 different therapeutic indications.”

The benefits of AI are vast, with potential applications including the design of new drug compounds, identifying existing drugs with the potential to be repurposed, and optimizing clinical trial processes.

“In drug discovery and clinical trials, Sanofi uses AI to reduce the time needed to move from the discovery phase of new drugs to clinical trials,” Sanofi said. “This includes using AI for more efficient trial design, research and trial site setup (optimizing the number of trial centers, locations, number of patients, etc.).”

Sanofi has adopted an internal strategy called the “AI research factory strategy” to harness the potential of generative AI, “This approach covers the entire drug discovery process, from identifying disease mechanisms to molecular design, right through to biomarker-guided precision medicine trials, all supported by AI,” explained Sanofi.

AI can be applied in other areas of translation research including immunology. Sanofi R&D teams utilize AI to “create highly sophisticated molecular disease maps to discover new disease mechanisms and targets.”

AI models designed for the pharmaceutical industry

As part of its mission to become the first biopharma company powered by AI, Sanofi is partnering with OpenAI and Formulation Bio, providing access to proprietary data to help develop pharma-specific AI models.

Formation Bio will bring extensive engineering resources, experience operating at the intersection of pharma and AI, and its tech-driven development platform to the partnership.

“By creating and implementing customized AI agents and models designed for our industry, companies like Sanofi and Formation Bio can begin to scale with unprecedented productivity and transform the pace at which we bring new medicines to patients,” said Benjamine Liu, co-founder and CEO of Formation Bio.

The two pharmaceutical innovators will partner with OpenAI – famous for its chatbot, ChatGPT. OpenAI will contribute access to cutting-edge AI capabilities, including the ability to fine-tune models and its AI expertise and resources.

“It still takes a dozen years on average between the discovery of a molecule and its availability as a treatment for patients, so there is a unique opportunity here to compress this time,” Sanofi said.

Existing partnerships between OpenAI and the pharmaceutical giant Moderna have already demonstrated the potential for AI to improve productivity and safety.

The company has partnered with OpenAI since early 2023 and has applied ChatGPT Enterprise across diverse operations – from legal departments to R&D. An internal chatbot, known as mChat, has already been adopted by 80% of Moderna employees since its launch at the start of 2023.

In addition, Moderna has built and is continuing to develop and validate Dose ID, a generative pre-trained transformer (GPT) pilot that has the potential to review and analyze clinical data and can integrate and visualize large datasets. The AI partnership is a key part of Moderna’s strategy to launch multiple products over the next few years.

This new partnership with Sanofi and Formulation Bio will bring together cross-industry expertise and proprietary data to build and train OpenAI’s models and custom software specifically for drug development.

“This work goes beyond implementing Enterprise ChatGPT capabilities to actually having all three companies jointly identify use cases, scope solutions and develop fit-for-purpose, scalable AI tools,” said Sanofi. “We are building customized models vs out-of-the-box solutions for our industry with deep engagement from all three teams.”

The potential positive impact of AI for bringing new treatments to patients is tremendous. The development of next-generation AI model customizations will be an important foundation in efforts to shape the future of drug development.

Representatives from Sanofi were speaking with Blake Forman, Senior Science Writer at Technology Networks.