In the past, drug companies have used artificial intelligence to examine chemistry-whether a drug might bind to a particular protein, for instance. Now the trend is to use AI to probe biological systems to get clues about how a drug might affect a patient’s cells or tissues.
Data from the samples produced by Mr. Sanders, 64, a U.S. Navy veteran, will become part of the database in a $17 million, seven-year study known as Project Survival, bankrolled by Berg, a Framingham, Mass., biotech firm that is one of several companies in the U.S. and Europe using AI to make drug research and development less expensive and more efficient.
Mr. Sanders says he agreed to take part in the study in hopes that it might “Help the next person.” Intelligent machines will scour his samples and genes, along with those of hundreds of other patients, for molecular fingerprints, or biomarkers, that could later be used to help measure a specific drug’s impact and to identify patients in which such a drug is likely to be most useful.
Others, such as International Business Machines Corp. , Atomwise Inc. in San Francisco and Insilico Medicine Inc. in Baltimore, are forming research partnerships with universities and nonprofits or setting up AI services aimed at drug companies.
Merck KGaA operates in the U.S. as EMD Serono Inc. At Berg, Dr. Narain says AI has helped scientists “Decide which cancers we were going to go after” by helping them understand how a drug in clinical testing might work at the cellular level.
The FDA encourages companies “To improve efficiency of identifying potent and safe molecules,” says Peter Stein, deputy director of the office of new drugs at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.