Artificial Intelligence Helps To Discover New Antibiotic

What if AI helped us find the vaccine for the novel coronavirus? How might that impact the future of biotechnology?

As BigTech are investing in healthcare with AI products, I think about the emergence of AI + Biotechnology and pharma R&D a lot.

Recently, researchers used a machine-learning platform to test more than 100 million molecules for antibacterial activity. This is according to a study published in February 20200 in Cell. The researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) reported the discovery of a potent new antibiotic, halicin, which was able to kill 35 powerful bacteria.

AI and Drug Innovation

Why is this important? This is the first time that the use of AI has led to the identification of a completely new kind of antibiotic from scratch, without the input of any previous human assumptions.

This is radical news. A chemistry-combing algorithm uncovered a promising new antibiotic molecule called halicin. Halicin worked well against three major resistant disease pathogens, including C. diff. This could be the new normal in using AI to leverage faster drug development and R&D in biotech’s emerging market.

The discovery comes at a time when novel antibiotics are becoming increasingly difficult to find, reports STAT, and when drug-resistant bacteria are a growing global threat.

Among the pathogens targeted were Clostridium difficile, tuberculosis and Acinetobacter baumannii, an effectively untreatable infection often seen among US veterans, which enters wounds and frequently causes death.

Ever since antibiotics were invented in the early 20th century, we’ve been locked in an arms race with bacteria. Antibiotics work for a while, but eventually the bugs evolve resistance to those in wide use. AI doing the grunt work of discovery could lead to important discoveries.

Using machine learning to comb through millions of options can help scientists think outside the box both chemically and financially. It’s not by accident that BTAI’s stock jumped recently $8 one year ago, to $32 today. Increasingly AI is being fused with drug discovery procedures.

SunTrust cranked up her price target on the previously underappreciated biotech stock. In February, Robyn Karnauskas raised her price target on this stock to $150, which is 275% higher than its recent price. BioXcel Therapeutics leverages AI in its pharma processes. BioXcel Therapeutics is developing high value therapeutics in neuroscience and immuno-oncology utilizing a novel artificial intelligence platform.

So how does AI get trained?

For this study, researchers from MIT and Harvard started by training a machine learning model on around 2,500 molecules, including existing FDA-approved drugs and other natural products.

Once the system had a good grasp of what biological effects these molecules have, the team then set it loose on a library of about 6,000 drug compounds to search for those that would have strong antibacterial activity. And it found one. AI is already impacting white-collar work in the pharma industry, in an accelerating way.

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