Drug Discovery Industry Roundup with Barry Bunin — July 11, 2023
Barry Bunin, PhD
Founder & CEO
Collaborative Drug Discovery
Does Taurine Slow the Aging Process, Or is it a Case of Your Alarm Clock Causing the Sun to Rise? Derek Lowe in his blog for Science, takes a look at a paper that suggests the supplement taurine (found in many energy drinks) might be something of a fountain of youth. The paper found that supplementing mouse diets with taurine was associated with a 20% increase in lifespan, and points to data from 12,000 patients in the EPIC-Norfolk study, that found that higher blood taurine levels were associated with lower BMI, lower prevalence of type II diabetes and lower levels of inflammation markers. The authors, and Lowe, note that association doesn’t prove causation. (As Lowe notes, otherwise “you can assume that your alarm clock makes the sun come up.”) However, Lowe notes “Feline taurine deficiency is connected to retinal and cardiovascular problems, among others. If you make mice genetically deficient in taurine synthesis, they have extremely depleted exercise capacity compared with normal rodents, and such observations are why you see it added to drinks and supplements marketed towards athletes and bodybuilders. The paper concludes: “Given that taurine has no known toxic effects in humans (though rarely used in concentrations used here), can be administered orally, and affects all the major hallmarks of aging, human trials are warranted to examine whether taurine supplementation increases healthy life span in humans.”
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The “Inscrutability of AI” Creates Challenges for Patents. That’s the take-home message from an article “How AI is Affecting the Patent System,” in Reuters. The obvious question, from my perspective, is if an AI can discover something does that mean by definition it is obvious (and patents must be novel and non-obvious to someone skilled in the art). The article, written by patent attorney Robert Plotkin, points to AI-assisted drug discovery as an example of the challenges to come. “One feature of many AI systems is that it is difficult or impossible for humans to understand their outputs or how such systems produce those outputs. This is referred to as the ‘inscrutability of AI,’” Plotkin writes. “The inability to understand and describe AI systems and their outputs poses problems for those who wish to satisfy patent law's written description and enablement requirements when writing patent applications for AI-related inventions.” The challenge isn’t insurmountable. Plotkin writes: “In the chemical and biological arts it is common for inventors to have invented a material (e.g., a chemical composition) that can be shown to perform a certain function, even though the inventors do not know, and cannot explain how, the material performs that function. Patent law permits such inventions to be patented in various ways, such as by using product-by-process claims (which claim a product in terms of the process that was used to produce it) and method of use claims (in which a method in which a product is used is claimed, even if the mechanism of action of the product itself is not known).”
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Do Drugs Like Ozempic and Mounjaro Mean Goodbye to Bariatric Surgery? That’s a question raised in a recent article in The Wall Street Journal headlined “The Drugs That Are Gaining On Oazempic.” The article reads in part: “If they prove to work safely, the therapies could help people lose so much weight that they supplant bariatric surgery.” The article notes that weight loss drugs are proving so popular that competitors are coming to market—some with even more impressive claims. “Weight-loss drugs more potent than Ozempic are coming.
Spurred by the viral success of therapies such as Ozempic and Mounjaro, researchers are doubling down on finding a next generation of medicines that would help people shed more pounds. Early returns are promising: New evidence presented Monday for an experimental treatment from Eli Lilly found it could help people lose almost a quarter of their body weight in about 11 months.” The article reports Lilly has said that if further testing of its anti-obesity drug retatrutide is successful, the drug could be up for approval in 2026. Meanwhile, some in the medical community are already impressed. “This is way beyond my wildest dreams,” Dr. Carel Le Roux, a professor at University College in Dublin, Ireland, who has advised Lilly and other drugmakers, said about the retatrutide study results. “To see something like this in my lifetime is pretty impressive.”
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Generative AI May Prove Pivotal to Fighting the Next Virus to Emerge. A recent article in Health IT Analytics, describes work done by researchers at Oxford University and IBM developing a new AI model that can generate antiviral molecules to target and block multiple virus proteins, including SARS-CoV-2. These findings, the researchers explained, are important because preparation for a future pandemic requires the ability to quickly develop drugs that target different sites of the protein, which is part of how a virus is neutralized. “We created valid antivirals using a generative foundation model that knew relatively little about its protein targets,” said the study’s co-senior author, Jason Crain, PhD, a researcher at IBM Research and professor at Oxford, in the blog post. “I’m hopeful that these methods will allow us to create antivirals and other urgently needed compounds much faster and more inexpensively in the future.” It is worth mentioning in passing that CDD Vault supports numerous researcher leaders working on generative AI models and has been active in the field since 2018.
Barry A. Bunin, PhD, is the Founder & CEO of Collaborative Drug Discovery, which provides a modern approach to drug discovery research informatics trusted globally by thousands of leading researchers. CDD Vault® is a hosted biological and chemical database that securely manages your private and external data.