The importance of artificial intelligence and machine learning is ever-increasing in the world of drug development, and AstraZeneca is bolstering its participation in the tech revolution by striking a deal with New York-based Schrödinger to use that company’s advanced computing platform to help accelerate drug discovery efforts.

Schrödinger will use its computational platform, which combines physics-based modeling and machine learning, to bolster the work conducted by AstraZeneca’s medicinal and computational chemists to help improve the design of compounds to identify potential new therapeutic candidates. The Schrödinger platform is designed to enable chemists to predict the potency of a molecule binding to a target protein. By doing so, this, according to Schrödinger, “increases the likelihood that, when synthesized, compounds will have the correct properties required for further development and reduces the number of compounds that need to be synthesized.”

Garry Pairaudeau, global chemistry lead in R&D at AstraZeneca said the collaboration with Schrödinger will enable the company to realize the “potential of predictive physics-based modeling and machine learning” in order to help the company deliver higher-quality compounds in a more effective manner. Pairaudeau said the company’s strategic goal is to “transform drug design using innovative digital technologies.”

Machine learning systematically analyzes data to find connections and AI is used to deduce previously unknown connections. The results are interpreted and used to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms of disease and the compounds that can treat them. On its website, AstraZeneca noted that the use of big data and artificial intelligence turns “yesterday’s science fiction into today’s reality with the aim of enabling the translation of innovative science into life-changing medicines.”

On AstraZeneca’s website, Pairaudeau is quoted expressing his belief in the power of AI. He said AI provides the potential to “to transform medicinal chemistry, augmenting traditional design with sophisticated computational methods to predict what molecules to make next and how to make them.”

Financial terms of the collaboration were not disclosed by Schrödinger in its announcement this morning. The company said that members of its team will work closely with AstraZeneca in order to seamlessly integrate the platform into the pharma giant’s drug discovery workflow.

Ramy Farid, chief executive officer of Schrödinger, said he was excited about the collaboration with AstraZeneca. Farid called the U.K. company a “leader in embracing the potential of technology to reshape drug discovery” and noted that the Schrödinger team is ready to support the efforts to design new drugs with their tech platform.

AstraZeneca is no stranger to using artificial intelligence to assist drug development. At the end of April, AstraZeneca and BenevolentAI entered into a long-term collaboration to harness the power of AI and machine learning to discover and develop new drugs for chronic kidney disease (CKD) and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).



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