Drug Discovery Industry Roundup with Barry Bunin — May 4, 2022

Barry Bunin, PhD Founder & CEO Collaborative Drug Discovery

Barry Bunin, PhD
Founder & CEO
Collaborative Drug Discovery

“Bill Gates: How to Develop Life-Saving Drugs Much Faster. That headline in The New York Times certainly caught my eye. While Gates doesn’t have a secret formula for speeding drug discovery and clinical testing, his essay, taken from his forthcoming book “How to Prevent the Next Pandemic,” is a strong call for investing in the basic sciences and industry to enable faster development of vaccines, as well as effective therapeutics. In pointing to the need for developing software to speed trials, in part by removing, or at least augmenting, animal models, he repeats an old researcher’s saying: “Mice lie, monkeys exaggerate, and ferrets are weasels.” It is good to see Gates shining the light on the need for more investment in drug discovery, including the development of software that could slash the time and expense of bringing new products through testing and into the world to help others.

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Will an AI Robot be Sitting Next to You in the Lab? Forbes carries an article looking at how technological developments may help speed drug discovery, including the impact that new technologies like AI can have on the process. “AI is aiding science by processing huge volumes of clinical and patient data to accelerate research into new vaccines and therapeutics. In laboratories, innovations in instrumentation and robotics are automating experiments—making them faster, cheaper and more reproducible. And in clinical development, sensors and wearable technologies are transforming how trials are conducted by enabling remote data collection and patient monitoring.” The article looks at Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3 (GPT3 ), an AI-driven language model that uses deep learning to mimic human speech and text—as well as answering complex questions and connecting nuanced ideas. “Its application has many possibilities—from accelerating drug discovery and development to powering medical chatbots for patients.” The article also notes: “In order to truly realize the benefits of any technology and retain their competitive advantages, pharmaceutical CEOs and CTOs first need to invest in better data management.” Obviously the importance of data management was not lost on me, as that is the raison d’etre for CDD Vault.

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Are Pan-Coronavirus Vaccines Possible? That’s the title of a recent blog by Derek Lowe, over at Science. Lowe provides an excellent overview of the challenges, and emerges optimistic, writing: “There's no reason why broader coronavirus vaccines should be impossible to develop. It's been hard to do against influenza, but those viruses have a constant mix-and-match changeover mechanism in their surface proteins that coronaviruses don't share, fortunately, so the cases aren't directly comparable. At the same time, there's no reason for it to be easy, or for our most plausible ideas to be the ones that work. We have to do the work and go out and try them. Onward!”

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“Medicare Is Cleaning Up the FDA’s Mess on Biogen’s Alzheimer’s Drug.” Bloomberg carries that not-too-subtle headline on a recent opinion piece that argues: “Medicare has decided once and for all not to pay for Biogen’s new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm unless patients are enrolled in a clinical study.  The agency’s final call was unsurprising, but blessedly rational. It corrects the Food and Drug Administration’s mistake in letting Aduhelm onto the market. At the same time, it leaves room for future Alzheimer’s drugs to be covered—as long as studies show they are safe and effective. This will encourage beneficial innovation in Alzheimer’s drug development, and ensure that patients get medicines that can truly help them.”

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Ready for Your Selfie Closeup? A New Way to Diagnose Skin Cancers. An artificial intelligence app and a special lens that can be fitted onto a smartphone are helping the UK deal with a shortage of dermatologists at a time when skin cancer rates within the UK are increasing. Pharmaphorum carries the news that the AI-powered digital tool for diagnosing skin cancers, developed by Skin Analytics, has been cleared in the UK as a Class IIA medical device, setting up broader use of the technology in patient assessments. The tool is used by general practitioners, to help them identify serious cancers that should be referred for fast-track specialist care. “Skin cancer rates are doubling in the UK every 10-15 years and about 30% of dermatology posts in the NHS are unfilled,” said Skin Analytics’ Quality Assurance and Regulatory Director James Hamlyn. “Healthcare systems are not equipped to deal with the volume of patients they need to see, especially in the light of the backlog created by COVID. AI can bridge this gap.”

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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.