How these scientists are harnessing AI and health technologies to develop drugs faster

Friends and colleagues, Professor Jayant Singh and Dr Sudip Roy have always shared the same line of thinking – what if AI, cloud-based supercomputing, and highly quantitative physics-based methodologies could be used for accelerate drug discovery?

Drawing on their years of experience and expertise in this particular area of ​​work, scientists have understood how to accelerate drug development by improving the quality of pharmaceutical science and research.

And, after five years of deliberation on the subject, the duo finally founded Prescience Insilico in 2019 in Bangalore.

Dr Sudip Roy, Co-founder

What does it do?

Put simply, the platform uses cutting-edge technology to reduce the time it takes to design and develop a new drug. Work as a suite of solutions, Prescience provides a solution for the field of drug development.

Additionally, it uses AI, cloud computing, and advanced physics-based modeling methods, such as molecular dynamics and enhanced sampling, to calculate the binding energy to match ligands to target. . It is user-friendly, highly innovative, and solution-ready.

The software helps improve the field of drug development by not only reducing the time and expense required to develop drugs, but also increasing the accuracy of potential drugs, thereby reducing the chances of failure.

The platform also reduces the number of laboratory experiments and eliminates the need for the usual trial and error methodology used in drug development.

Use of AI

Prescience’s product uses AI in a variety of ways. One of its main characteristics is to generate synthetic molecules (with high probability and synthetic capacity for drugs), taking into account the input of known ligands (already known drugs) and unknown targets like proteins, nucleic acids, etc.

This helps users of the platform to design a whole new set of molecules, which was not possible otherwise. The platform is fully cloud-compatible, which means that one can use cloud computing with high-speed graphics processing units (GPUs) to reduce discovery time.

Plus, the cloud is available as and when needed without having to have or procure your own on-premises IT resources.

Other technologies used by the product are container technology, so the platform is independent of the operating system, that is, compatible with any computer with any operating system. operation. It is also integrated with databases and uses cloud storage, so no local storage is required. In addition, it is a highly secure platform that can only be accessed through user authentications.

“This is particularly useful today, as the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic and needs a quick and precise solution. Prescience has previously published two articles in the Journal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics on New Chemical Entity (NCE) and Reuse (Identification of New Therapeutic Uses for Existing Drugs) of Drugs for COVID-19, and also found four major drugs for reuse, ”informs Sudip.

Jayant Singh

Market tests

One of the drugs, Silmitasertib, is already in a Phase 2 clinical trial in India. Recently, a COVID-19 therapeutic drug – “2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG)”, a glucose analogue, was developed in collaboration between the Institute of Nuclear Medicine (INMAS), India, Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), India, and Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories (DRL), India.

“The Prescience team worked on this and predicted that 2-DG shows no comparable inhibition for unstructured proteins associated with SAR-COV2 translation and replication. However, it can be used as clinical therapy in patients infected with COVID-19 for competitive inhibition of the glycolysis process in cells infected with the virus, thereby reducing the rate of virus replication, ”explains Sudip.

Challenges

Sudip, who works with a team of 10, says most of the work on the startup took place during the pandemic, when they faced challenges like lack of funding, and even some disbelief from the development field. of drugs on the validation of new methodologies.

“Only a few people have considered the involvement of advanced technologies such as AI / ML, cloud computing, broadband and high performance computing in the traditional field of drug development. Experts in the field were unable to understand a technological platform for drug development, ”adds Sudip.

Therefore, entrepreneurs struggled to find software developers who understood the scientific basis of the product.

However, these challenges were overcome over time; and Prescience began as a seed initiative. The company then successfully launched several large business projects to initiate funding.

All of the industry’s initial hesitations in the product were resolved once the peer-reviewed publications rolled out of the company and by the verdict of the users. Jayant and Sudip’s vision was also aided by many other factors – they are well known scientists in the field, a combination of their skills and a gap in the market.

Prescience currently derives its revenue from existing projects with leading companies in the health and materials field. Sudip adds that the company is experiencing significant revenue growth this year, with new companies integrating their technologies.

Launch and commercialization

The platform was only launched in August 2021. So the user base is still small, and Prescience hopes to grow the base month over month through regular webinars and demo sessions. We are also in talks with institutes and universities in India and abroad to build a strong user base who will primarily use the platform for research, ”Sudip said.

The startup also carries out internal R&D projects and is looking for industrial and university partners in these projects. A renowned Indian pharmaceutical R&D institute has already signed a memorandum of understanding with Prescience for long-term collaboration on several R&D projects relating to the development of drugs for neurodegenerative diseases.

While the current pandemic has created a need for startups in the field of drug discovery, the segment already has several global players like Instiro, Relay Theraputics, Roivant Sciences, DeepCure and even Genome Bilogicals.

Difference and model

Speaking about what sets them apart, Sudip says:

“The only thing that sets our company apart is the use of modern technologies and a solution-oriented approach. Most of the software on the market is problem-oriented, so the user has to develop a pipeline to get a solution.

Prescience’s revenue model is built on four pillars: software subscription, cloud partnership, turnkey solution, and service model. For software subscription, the target market is both universities for research and education, and industry for their R&D.

Scientists, faculties and students (the product of Prescience can be used in the academic fields of biotechnology, bioinformatics, life sciences, pharmacy and medicine, etc.) can benefit from subscriptions academic at a lower price. Like other subscription products, Prescience’s platform offers different subscription levels with varying functionality.

However, Prescience believes in accessibility. The company is committed to keeping prices competitive so that everyone in the industry can access the product and all of its features without any funding issues. Prescience also runs an R&D program in which users are invited to join.

The company will invest the earned margins in product development and research. However, according to projections, over the next three to five years, the company will earn around 30% of its margins on its own and may decide to invest in new products such as material design applications based on the same platform. .

“Over the next two years, Prescience Insilico aims to expand abroad, particularly in Europe and America. We’re also putting a lot of effort into growing our internal drug pipeline, which will ultimately give the company its own intellectual properties (IP). Finally, we are also working to develop our materials design portfolio, and use the same platform to host applications that would provide solutions in this area, ”concludes Sudip.

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