- Blockchain Council
- December 06, 2023
AstraZeneca, the prominent Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant, has embarked on a transformative journey in cancer therapeutics through a groundbreaking collaboration with Absci Corporation, a U.S.-based generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) biologics firm. This strategic partnership, valued at up to $247 million, aims to propel the discovery and development of a revolutionary antibody-based drug for cancer treatment.
While the specifics of this collaboration remain shrouded in some mystery, key components include an upfront payment, research and development funding, milestone payments, and a share of product sales royalties. Absci’s GenAI-powered platform is set to take center stage, focusing on refining the design of antibodies with superior properties such as target affinity, safety, and ease of manufacture.
Absci made waves in October with its claim of being the first entity to create and validate new antibodies using “zero-shot” GenAI. This innovative method involves designing antibodies without relying on any training data of antibodies known to bind specific targets. The GenAI platform relies on proprietary wet-lab assays, generating billions of protein-protein interaction data points. These data points serve as the fuel for machine learning (ML) models, enabling the creation of novel designs for antibodies and other biologic drugs.
The unique aspect of Absci’s approach lies in the seamless integration of AI and wet-lab validation. Designed antibodies undergo swift validation in the wet lab, a process that can be completed in just a few weeks. The results then feed back into the AI, enhancing and refining the ML algorithms. Absci boldly claims that this de novo approach could significantly reduce the time required to bring new drug leads into the clinic, potentially shortening the timeline from six years to an impressive 18-24 months.
AstraZeneca’s foray into this collaboration aligns with a broader industry trend, where major pharmaceutical players are increasingly embracing AI-driven approaches in biopharmaceutical research and development. The multinational corporation joins the ranks of Absci’s influential pharma partners, having recently sealed a $650 million partnership with Spanish pharmaceutical company Almirall.
The collaboration signifies AstraZeneca’s strategic intent to harness the power of AI in accelerating the discovery of potential new cancer treatments. Absci’s GenAI platform, with its ability to measure millions of protein-protein interactions, serves as a crucial tool in this pursuit. The platform accelerates drug discovery by completing the cycle of data collection, AI-driven design, and wet-lab validation within approximately six weeks.
AstraZeneca’s strategic moves in the AI space extend beyond the collaboration with Absci. The pharmaceutical giant recently unveiled Evinova, a health-tech company dedicated to digital technology and AI integration in clinical trials. This move reflects AstraZeneca’s commitment to leveraging AI not only in drug discovery but also in the broader spectrum of healthcare innovation.
The collaboration between AstraZeneca and Absci is part of a broader trend in the industry, where leading pharmaceutical companies are exploring AI-driven advancements in disease treatment. Notable alliances include Boehringer Ingelheim and IBM, as well as Roche/Genentech partnering with NVIDIA. These collaborations underscore the industry’s recognition of the potential of AI in revolutionizing large-molecule therapies.
While AI and deep learning have already made substantial strides in small-molecule drug design, their application to biologics is still in its infancy. The collaboration between AstraZeneca and Absci signifies a significant step forward in bridging this gap, promising to unlock new frontiers in cancer therapeutics.
Absci’s in-house pipeline focuses on cytokine biology, with ABS-101 leading the charge as a potential “best-in-class” TL1A antagonist. The partnership aims to bring selected candidates into clinical trials starting from 2025 onwards. This collaborative effort, fueled by Absci’s AI platform, holds the promise of not only expediting drug development but also increasing the probability of success in clinical trials.
As the healthcare and pharmaceutical landscape witnesses a surge in AI-driven innovations, AstraZeneca’s collaboration with Absci stands as a testament to the industry’s commitment to harnessing cutting-edge technologies for groundbreaking advancements in cancer treatment. The application of GenAI principles to drug discovery holds the promise of heightened success rates and accelerated development timelines, setting the stage for a transformative era in biopharmaceuticals.
The collaboration between AstraZeneca and Absci marks a significant milestone in the intersection of AI and biologics. With a commitment to redefining cancer treatment and a vision for a future where AI plays a pivotal role, these two entities join forces to shape the landscape of oncology therapeutics. The journey has just begun, and the possibilities are boundless as we stand on the cusp of a new era in the fight against cancer.