AI and Aging
Developing medicines to combat aging-related diseases will be the focus od three organizations in a joint venture, according to an article by Conor Hale in Fierce Biotech. Hale recently reported that Insilico, Juvenescence and the Buck Institute were forming an artificial intelligence (AI)-based venture to expedite drug discovery as it applies to metabolism and aging-related diseases. It seems that the bottom line is only part of the story.
The thee aging-focused biotechnology companies and research institutes — “the AI company Insilico Medicine, the portfolio-based startup Juvenescence and the nonprofit Buck Institute”—have created a joint venture that will focus on developing small molecules for a novel target in an effort to extend people’s life spans, Hale’s article explained. Known as Napa Therapeutics, the company will attempt to develop NAD+ metabolism research from the lab of Eric Verdin, M.D., president and CEO of the Buck Institute. The company will use Insilico’s drug development engine to find new compounds.
According to Verdin, “This is a unique opportunity to use cutting-edge AI to accelerate drug discovery. The Buck is excited to join forces with Insilico and Juvenescence as we work to eliminate the threat of age-related disease for this and future generations.”
Napa will be a privately held British Virgin Islands company, with an office in the Isle of Man, where Juvenescence is located. Juvenescence, which in-licenses aging-related assets, has engaged in joint ventures with Insilico in the past. Juvenescence has also been part of joint ventures with other artificial intelligence, clinical trial and drug discovery organizations. If the Napa program is successful, Insilico could garner $100 million in milestone payments.
Verdin explained that his lab is studying the role of sirtuins, deacylating enzymes and signaling metabolites from the mitochondria, and their regulation of aging. These studies include hundreds of target proteins that have been revealed through proteomic analyses. Some of them are involved in major metabolic pathways, including fatty acid oxidation, the breakdown of glucose andthe release of stored energy, according to Hale’s article.
Alex Zhavoronkov, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Insilico Medicine, who also serves as an adjunct professor of artificial intelligence at the Buck Institute, said, “We are very happy to partner with the Buck Institute and Juvenescence around a very promising set of targets in a pathway overlooked by the pharmaceutical industry.”
Napa is planning to utilize Insilico’s “adversarial neural networks that compete to generate and evaluate drug candidates through a machine learning-based discovery pipeline,” Dr. Zhavoronkov explained. Recently, Insilico worked with WuXi AppTec to “test its AI-generated novel molecules in challenging biological targets,” he added.
Dr. Zhavoronkov concluded, “Aging research is among the most altruistic causes that will improve and extend the lives of everyone on the planet and reduce the pain and suffering associated with the age-associated diseases.”