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Algorae Pharmaceuticals harnessing AI to meet acute medical needs

Algorae has access to the most powerful supercomputer in the Southern Hemisphere.

With access to a vast data library, including the biggest supercomputer in the Southern Hemisphere, Algorae Pharmaceuticals (ASX: 1AI) is aiming to harness the power of AI (artificial intelligence) to transform the cost, pace and timeline of drug discovery and development.

At a time when AI is making headlines for its potentially negative impacts on humankind – with fears of job displacement, privacy concerns or a lack of creativity, ethics and emotion – Algorae is looking solely at the ways it can benefit the health and wellness of society.

Utilising its AI-enabled “AlgoraeOS” drug discovery platform, the system aims to predict and prioritise drug targets by analysing biological data, identifying disease-associated pathways and predicting the likelihood of a target being viable for therapy.

AlgoraeOS represents the cutting edge of combination drug development in Australia.
Algorae Pharmaceuticals chairman David Hainsworth

The new platform aims to fast-track the process of finding and approving new treatments, making it quicker and more cost-effective by supporting targeted approaches to drug repositioning, which is when existing products can be combined and used to treat a wider range of diseases.

We are delighted with the advancements in our artificial intelligence platform. AlgoraeOS represents the cutting edge of combination drug development in Australia.
Algorae Pharmaceuticals chairman David Hainsworth

AlgoraeOS will utilise AI capabilities to connect previously disconnected data to assess drugs and molecules for potential repositioning into new drug candidates to meet medical needs.

A primary focus will be on fixed-dose combination drugs, which are medicines comprising two or more active pharmaceutical ingredients combined in a single dose. Algorae aims to leverage existing data generated on individual drugs by other research and development companies over several decades to develop improved pharmaceutical treatments.

Fixed-dose combination drugs hold several advantages over individual treatments as they can be effective against a wider range of targets or diseases. Combinations can also mean lower doses of each drug, which can minimise the potential side effects.

While other companies need to conceptualise and create their potential treatments, then go through the rigorous testing and clinical trial phase of its development, before then applying for various market approvals, Algorae can utilise existing data from a myriad of drugs that have already made it to various stages of development and through approvals processes.

It means the AI system can screen for fixed-dose combination drug targets – either two registered drugs or a registered drug plus a cannabinoid. Repositioning combination drugs can potentially compress timelines, decrease costs and increase approval success rates.

Formerly known as Living Cell Technologies, the company applied to change its name back in July last year. Management says Algorae is a unique word over which it has lodged a pending trademark. It is derived from the term algorithm, which underpins the AI base central to its drug development system.

Management says a critical part of its armoury is the system’s access to the most powerful supercomputer in the Southern Hemisphere. Dubbed “Gadi” and operated by Australia’s pre-eminent high-performance data, storage and computing facility – National Computational Infrastructure – the supercomputer has previously been used for climate modelling and natural disaster prediction.

Data acquisition and customisation to build on the AlgoraeOS database is underway, with a focus on four key pillars of information including drug, cellular and biological data, in addition to chemistry. Initial acquired data already included in the company’s library covers scientific and medical fields including drug chemical structure, drug-target interactions, gene expression and drug perturbation.

The company entered into a memorandum of understanding with UNSW in September last year to build upon a sophisticated AI model trained for pharmaceutical prediction that had already been developed by data specialists within the university’s Data Science Hub. The project is led by Associate Professor Fatemeh Vafee, who attained a PhD in AI from the School of Computer Science at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

Dr Vafee is the deputy director of the UNSW Data Science Hub and established the Biomedical AI Laboratory at the UNSW Faculty of Science.

The new development for Algorae also follows on from its engagement of La Trobe University to carry out preclinical studies over its “AI-116″ combination drug candidate aimed at treating dementia.

According to UNSW, the current pre-clinical stage of drug discovery can take up to six years, potentially costing billions of dollars.

But Algorae says AI tools are helping speed up the development process by repositioning drugs, identifying drug interactions, assessing toxicity and predicting novel drug targets. It adds that machine learning, deep learning and neural network models can also optimise compound designs, guiding researchers towards more promising avenues of investigation while saving significant time and resources.

The company appears to be the first ASX -listed pharmaceutical company to pursue a business model using AI for its research and development programs.

Currently, only about 6 per cent of clinical trials using traditional drug discovery methods receive FDA approval. Algorae aims to drastically improve on that by harnessing the power of data and AI.

And at a time when the world seems to be confronted by more devastating diseases and conditions than ever before, that would only be a good thing.

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