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AstraZeneca and BenevolentAI team up to fight chronic kidney disease and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis


By Paul Brackley


A long-term collaboration between AstraZeneca and BenevolentAI will bring the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to bear in the hunt for new treatments for chronic kidney disease and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Inside BenevolentAI at Babraham Research Campus. Picture: Keith Heppell
Inside BenevolentAI at Babraham Research Campus. Picture: Keith Heppell

AstraZeneca’s genomics, chemistry and clinical data will be combined with BenevolentAI’s target identification platform and biomedical knowledge graph to discover and develop therapies.

Mene Pangalos, executive vice president and president, biopharmaceuticals R&D at AstraZeneca, said: “The vast amount of data available to research scientists is growing exponentially each year.

“By combining AstraZeneca’s disease area expertise and large, diverse datasets with BenevolentAI’s leading AI and machine learning capabilities, we can unlock the potential of this wealth of data to improve our understanding of complex disease biology and identify new targets that could treat debilitating diseases.”

The partnership represents another major step forward for BenevolentAI, which was founded in 2013 by Ken Mulvany, raised more than $200m in five years and has been valued at $2billion.

Dr Mene Pangalos, of, AstraZeneca. Picture: AstraZeneca / Marcus Lyon
Dr Mene Pangalos, of, AstraZeneca. Picture: AstraZeneca / Marcus Lyon

After moving to Babraham Research Campus in February 2018, founder Ken Mulhany described the company’s platform as “an artificial intelligence technology that can read and understand the world’s biomedical information, then perform complex reasoning, to tell us things about disease never understood before”.

“This enables us to discover new medicines like no other organisation and drive cures for diseases that were previously untreatable,” he said.

The new collaboration will create a network of contextualised scientific data - genes, proteins, diseases and compounds - and the relationship between them.

Working side-by-side, the companies will interpret the results to understand the underlying mechanisms of the diseases and identify new potential drug targets more quickly than by the traditional route.

Inside BenevolentAI at Babraham Research Campus. Picture: Keith Heppell
Inside BenevolentAI at Babraham Research Campus. Picture: Keith Heppell

Joanna Shields, CEO at BenevolentAI, said: “Millions of people today suffer from diseases that have no effective treatment. The future of drug discovery and development lies in bridging the gap between AI, data, and biology.

“We are thrilled to be joining forces with AstraZeneca to develop new insights and identify promising new treatments for chronic kidney disease and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.”

The underlying biology of both chronic kidney disease and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is not well understood. By interrogating vast datasets about them, the companies hope that can find vital new insights.


Read more

$115million funding round values BenevolentAI at $2billion

BenevolentAI founder Ken Mulvany on using artificial intelligence to find new drugs to tackle disease

BenevolentAI, one of world's top five AI companies, acquires drug discovery centre on Babraham Research Campus

How AstraZeneca achieved a fivefold increase in its new medicines success rate

How Gurdon Institute’s Dr Emma Rawlins uses organoids to unravel secrets of lung development



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