Drug Discovery Industry Roundup with Barry Bunin — August 3, 2022
Another Big Moment for AI as DeepMind Announces Expanded Online Database that covers the “Entire Protein Universe.” DeepMind, the AI firm owned by Google's parent company, Alphabet, recently announced that its AlphaFold program has expanded its open online database to include more than 200 million protein structures. NBC News reports AlphaFold's upgraded database includes protein structures for plants, bacteria, animals and other organisms. It quotes DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis as saying: “By demonstrating that AI could accurately predict the shape of a protein down to atomic accuracy, at scale and in minutes, AlphaFold not only provided a solution to a 50-year grand challenge, it also became the first big proof point of our founding thesis: that artificial intelligence can dramatically accelerate scientific discovery, and in turn advance humanity.” The Guardian quotes Hassabis as saying: “Essentially, you can think of it as covering the entire protein universe” and that the AI breakthrough should “have an impact on important issues, such as sustainability, food insecurity, and neglected diseases.”
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Want to Raise Funds for a Drug Discovery Startup? Ask on a Sunny Day! That’s the take-home lesson from a recent article in The Wall Street Journal headlined “Investors Are More Likely to Back Startups on Sunny Days, a Study Finds.” This sunny study comes from rainy London, the work of Gary Dushnitsky, Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the London Business School. The study, based on 1,335 startups that graduated from European accelerators, looked into how the startups fared with potential investors at big meetup events, and found that on days that were sunnier than the previous day, startups had a greater likelihood of getting funding. The Wall Street Journal reports “Sunnier weather, the study found, acts as a stimulus to improve mood and is a feel-good factor that increases the likelihood of an investor committing to an investment. Sunnier weather is associated with a positive mood, which can sometimes filter into other decisions, including investors’ decision-making.”
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Creating an Atlas to Track Alzheimer’s Trajectories “As They March Across the Brain.” FIERCE Biotech carries a report on initial findings from the Seattle Alzheimer’s Disease Brain Cell Atlas initiative of the Allen Institute. So far, the study has profiled more than 1.2 million neurons and other brain cells from 84 donors—across a range of disease states, from normal, to moderate, to severe Alzheimer’s. FIERCE Biotech quotes Ed Lein, Ph.D., at the Allen Institute, who is collaborating with the University of Washington and the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute, as saying: “We want to describe trajectories of the disease as they march across brain regions and across different cell types in those brain regions, including regions affected both early and late in the disease. The aim, ultimately, is to find the early, causal events that happen when the disease is still potentially reversible.”
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Creating a New Drug? You Might Check Timecards for the Genes You are Targeting. The New York Times carries a fascinating article about the internal clocks that have so far been identified in at least half the roughly 20,000 genes of the human body. Circadian researcher Dr. John Hogenesch of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center initially caused a stir with publication of a paper finding that almost half of the genes in mice produce proteins are on a variable 24-hour schedule—and later found the same to be true for humans. The New York Times article notes: “The fact that the genes oscillated—became active or inactive in a predictable pattern—meant that those drugs might be very effective at certain times of the day and less so at others. And they might trigger side effects at certain times but not others, depending on the phase of the clocks in affected tissues.”
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Mergers & Acquisitions: OpenEye Purchased by Cadence Design Systems for $500 Million.
Cadence Design Systems has announced it is purchasing OpenEye Scientific Software for about $500 million in cash, as reported by Seeking Alpha. Cadence said it was attracted to OpenEye, a leading provider of computational molecular modeling and simulation software, because OpenEye products are used by pharmaceutical companies globally—including Pfizer and AstraZeneca— as well as numerous biotechnology companies and academic institutions. “Drug discovery is an increasingly complex process that requires significant investment in research and development,” Dr. Anirudh Devgan, President and CEO of Cadence, said in a release to Business Wire. “The pending acquisition of OpenEye, with its scientifically tested methodologies and expertise, accelerates Cadence’s Intelligent System Design strategy with our entry into a new system domain of life sciences.”
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.