BioMed X has announced that it has begun a joint research project with Sanofi on artificial intelligence (AI)-driven drug development.

The two companies initially announced their partnership late last year, and are now ready to begin work on their AI drug discovery platform.

The “Next Generation Virtual Patient Engine for Clinical Translation of Drug Candidates” (VPE) project aims to develop a computational platform capable of predicting the efficacy of first or best-in-class drug candidates.

In a 30 June statement, BioMed X claimed that such a platform will help to overcome the 90% failure rate of new drug candidates during clinical development, which the company believes to be “one of the most critical bottlenecks of the pharmaceutical industry today”.

The team can benefit from the resources and expertise of a pre-existing industry cluster, joining eight other active research teams at the BioMed X institute in Heidelberg, Germany.

At the helm of this new research team is bioscientist and entrepreneur Dr Douglas McCloskey, who founded AliveX biotech. The company uses its AI immunology platform to accelerate drug development for immune-mediated diseases. He claimed that this new research team would “[P]ush the frontier of in silico drug discovery and development using our AI expertise with coaching from our industry partners”.

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The Germany-based independent research group is no stranger to AI-driven drug development at this point, having had a strong interest in the area for years. Alongside pharma leaders AstraZeneca, Merck, Pfizer, and Teva, as well as Amazon and the Israel Biotech Fund, BioMed X founded AION labs, the Israel-based alliance of tech and pharma.

Since 2021, AION Labs has sought new and innovative approaches to drug discovery driven by AI and computer science. Earlier this year, AION and BioMed X launched their sixth challenge for AI-driven drug discovery startups.

AI is set to continue on the path to revolutionising the pharmaceutical industry, with a wave of new industry players looking to capitalise on its rise. The increased availability of ultra-large datasets, rising R&D costs, and the foundations of industry consortia such as AION labs make AI-driven drug discovery a more viable and necessary prospect.

Between 2019 and 2024, the market for AI in Pharma is expected to nearly triple in value, going from $1.5bn to $4.3bn. GlobalData analysis forecasts $3.3bn worth of spending on AI in drug discovery by 2025, more than triple the $1bn spent in 2019, and year-on-year growth of 24.4%. Key opinion leaders in the pharmaceutical industry have identified AI and big data as the two leading technologies in optimising industry processes.