Can artificial intelligence help to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy?

Artificial intelligence (AI) could be the answer to treating a number of so-called ‘orphan diseases’ such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a group of researchers believe.

In recent days, drug discovery firm Insilico Medicine has partnered up with biotechnology company A2A Pharmaceuticals in a bid to investigate the ways AI might be able to help pave the way for new treatments for an estimated 7,000 orphan conditions.

In medicine, an ‘orphan disease’ is usually defined as any condition which affects 200,000 or fewer people in any one country.

Such diseases include Duchenne muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, Tourette’s syndrome and Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Due to the relatively low number of people that are affected by these conditions, many leading pharmaceutical companies sadly do not see it as ‘economical’ to investigate new drugs in order to treat them.

However, Insilico Medicine and A2A Pharmaceuticals are determined not only to change that, but to investigate the potential of how innovative technologies such as AI might be able to supercharge their research.

The two companies have agreed to partner on so-called ‘drug discovery programmes’, which will pair Insilico’s AI biology and target discovery engine with A2A’s chemical design expertise.

Alex Zhavoronkov, Founder and CEO of Insilico Medicine, said: “A2A Pharmaceuticals has a team of highly talented drug hunters with a proven track record in discovery, development and licensing of the drug candidates. We are very happy to partner with their team to address the unmet medical needs of patients who are desperately waiting for solutions. This is a fantastic application for AI.

Dr Elena Diez Cecilia, Head of Business Development at A2A Pharmaceuticals, added: “We are pleased to partner with Insilico Medicine, combining our strengths and complementary technologies to accelerate advancement of better therapeutics into the clinic for the patients that need them.

“Muscular dystrophy is a debilitating and terminal degenerative condition that causes muscle inflammation and wasting, and there is a huge need for more effective therapies.”

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