How AI can speed up drug development

The first drugs designed with the help of artificial intelligence are being tested in clinical trials, MIT Technology Review reported Feb. 15. 

Biotech company Exscientia is using machine learning to design new pharmaceutical drugs, which in turn, could create more options for consumers when it comes to choosing a medication, according to the report. 

Since 2021, two drugs the company developed have started clinical trials, and Exscientia is looking to submit two more for the process. But, the company isn't the only one, as hundreds of startups are following suit and are looking at how machine learning can transform the pharmaceutical industry.

According to the report, it takes more than 10 years and billions of dollars to develop a new drug, but the use of AI can make this process faster and cheaper, as the technology has the potential to predict how drugs might behave in the body, discard dead-end compounds before they leave a computer and can shorten lab work time. 

In addition, automation in the pharmaceutical industry is starting to produce enough chemical and biological data to train machine-learning models. 

"We're going to see huge transformation in this industry over the next five years," said Sean McClain, founder and CEO of biotech company Absci, who is using AI to search through billions of potential drug designs. 

But, AI in drug discovery is still fairly new, and the machine learning models will need validation before being able to be fully capable of predicting how drugs will react in the body. 

According to the report, it could be a few years yet before the first drugs designed with the help of AI hit the market. 

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