A drug molecule “invented” by artificial intelligence (AI) will be used in human trials in a world first for machine learning in medicine.
It was created by the British start-up Exscientia and the Japanese pharmaceutical company Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma.
The drug will be used to treat patients with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
It usually takes around five years to develop a drug, but the AI drug only lasted 12 months.
Exscienta chief executive Prof. Andrew Hopkins described it as a “major milestone in drug discovery”.
He told the BBC: “We have seen AI for diagnosing patients and for analyzing patient data and scans, but this is a direct use of AI in the creation of a new drug.”
The molecule – known as DSP-1181 – was created by using algorithms that sifted through potential connections, and comparing them with a huge database of parameters.
“Billions of decisions are needed to find the right molecules and it is a huge decision to develop a drug,” said Prof. dr. Hopkins.
“But the great thing about the algorithm is that they are agnostic, so they can be applied to any disease,” he added.
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The first drug will be tested in phase one in Japan, which, if successful, will be followed by more global tests.
The company is already working on potential drugs for cancer and cardiovascular disease treatment and hopes to have another molecule ready for clinical trials by the end of the year.
“This year was the first year that a drug designed by AI was developed, but by the end of the decade, all new drugs could potentially be created by AI,” said Prof. dr. Hopkins.
Paul Workman, chief executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, who was not involved in the research, said about the breakthrough: “I think AI has enormous potential to improve and accelerate drug discovery.
“I find it exciting to see what I think is the first example of a new drug that is now being used in human clinics and that has been developed by scientists who use AI in an important way to guide and guide the discovery speed up.