The University of Sydney and Australian company Pharos Therapeutics have reached an agreement to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to progress drug discoveries for the treatment of cancer and rare diseases.

The university and Pharos have drawn up a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to use AI technology to identify potential compounds for the rapid development of treatments.

A subsidiary of South Korean pharmaceutical company Pharos iBio, Pharos will give the university’s drug discovery initiatives team access to Pharos iBio’s AI drug development platform, which is called Chemiverse.

The MoU allows Pharos to collaborate with the university’s researchers and gives access to its advanced drug discovery infrastructure.

Drug discovery initiative director Professor Michael Kassiou stated: “The process of developing drugs for treating disease is highly complex. We are incredibly excited to be working with Pharos Therapeutics, which will bring its cutting-edge artificial intelligence platform Chemiverse to this partnership.

“This platform will greatly enhance our ability to develop novel treatments for unmet medical needs. Additionally, the platform’s synergies with the drug discovery initiative will boost our innovation and support new drug discovery pipelines.”

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The drug discovery initiative is an interdisciplinary academic effort to expedite early-stage drug development. It is focused on the development of new compounds.

The programme works with industry partners to advance breakthrough discoveries to the next stage.

The Chemiverse platform is useful in all aspects of new drug development, from target discovery to lead compound generation.

It will provide the drug discovery initiative access to advanced algorithms and 230 million big data entries.

Pharos iBio is using the AI-based platform for research and development and in the commercialisation of ten pipeline projects, including the PHI-101, which is intended for the treatment of relapsed and refractory acute myelocytic leukaemia.

In March 2023, a consortium led by the University of Sydney received A$2.5m ($1.68m) from the New South Wales (NSW) government to accelerate drug discovery and design using stem-cell-derived organoids.

The funding will be used to establish the NSW Organoid Innovation Centre, a new facility that will advance drug discovery by leveraging the latest stem cell techniques.

The university also partnered with the University of NSW and the Children’s Medical Research Institute at Westmead, Sydney, to establish the NSW Organoid Innovation Centre.