Eli Lilly has joined a growing list of pharma companies to partner with OpenAI, as it seeks to develop new treatments for drug-resistant pathogens.  

The collaboration will utilise the generative artificial intelligence (genAI) from OpenAI to come up with new solutions for microbial infections. Lilly didn’t specify the exact details of how OpenAI’s technology will be used, or any financial terms of the deal.

Lilly joins Sanofi and Moderna, who have both unveiled partnerships with the genAI platform OpenAI this year. Last month, Sanofi announced that it was partnering with Formation Bio and OpenAI to harness AI to expedite drug development. On the other hand, Moderna has incorporated ChatGPT into an internal messaging platform called mChat, to harness data analytics, and use image generation, and dose selection.

This new collaboration with OpenAI builds on Lilly’s commitment to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The pharma giant previously contributed $100m to the AMR Action Fund, a global initiative aimed at addressing the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance by investing in antibiotic development. The fund aims to bring two to four new antibiotics to patients by 2030, particularly those that address the most resistant pathogens.

Earlier this month, the AMR fund backed Elion Therapeutics in an $81 million Series B that will support the company’s clinical-stage antifungal therapy, SF001. The AMR fund has supported other companies like Vedanta Biosciences, which raised $106.5m to advance a pipeline of defined bacterial consortia therapies. The round was co led by AMR fund and AXA IM Alts.

Antibiotic resistance is a rapidly growing global public health crisis. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were 1.27 million global deaths directly linked to resistant infections in 2019. Despite this, there have been no major breakthroughs in the space in over 50 years. The need to protect new antibiotics from resistance by using them sparingly has led to a lack of incentive in the R&D space. As a result, manufacturers haven’t been able to rely on sales revenues to recoup investments.

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However, the use of AI could help scientists to discover new antibiotics more quickly and accurately than traditional methods have allowed in the past.

In the announcement accompanying the collaboration, Lilly’s digital officer Diogo Rau said: “Generative AI opens a new opportunity to accelerate the discovery of novel antimicrobials and the development of custom, purpose-built technologies in the battle against drug-resistant pathogens.”