In a groundbreaking development, artificial intelligence (AI) has once again demonstrated its potential to revolutionize the healthcare industry, this time in the realm of drug creation. Insilico Medicine, a biotech company leveraging AI, has announced its AI-designed drug for COVID-19 is entering Phase I clinical trials. The drug, an oral treatment distinct from a vaccine, could potentially offer an alternative to Paxlovid, the only currently available medication for COVID symptoms.
This breakthrough underscores the transformative power of generative AI in healthcare and beyond. "Generative AI is transforming every area of human development," said Alex Zhavoronkov, PhD, founder and CEO of Insilico Medicine. The company’s new therapeutic, created using generative AI, is designed to be effective against variants resistant to Paxlovid, addressing limitations of the existing treatment, such as drug-resistant strains emerging as the virus mutates.
AI-Designed Drug for COVID-19 Enters Phase I Clinical Trials
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been steadily making its way into the healthcare industry, aiding in everything from patient diagnosis to drug discovery. Recently, AI-driven biotech company Insilico Medicine announced that its newest AI-designed drug, meant to treat COVID-19, has entered Phase I clinical trials.
A Potential Alternative to Paxlovid
The drug, which is orally administered, is not a vaccine but a treatment for the virus. If approved, it would provide an alternative to Paxlovid, currently the sole medication available to treat COVID symptoms. According to Insilico’s founder and CEO, Alex Zhavoronkov, the newly designed drug could offer a more stable, long-term treatment solution.
Paxlovid has been associated with some unwanted side effects, including "Paxlovid rebound" – a situation where patients, after initially testing negative for COVID, test positive again shortly after. Another known side effect is "Paxlovid mouth," where patients experience an unpleasant taste after taking the drug. Additionally, as the virus continues to mutate, there’s a risk of drug-resistant strains emerging.
A Promising New Drug
Insilico’s new drug, known as ISM3312, has shown efficacy against variants that are resistant to Paxlovid, according to the company’s preclinical studies. The drug, created using the company’s generative AI, has shown to significantly reduce the viral load in lung tissue and decrease lung inflammation.
The research team utilized its PandaOmics target discovery platform to identify the target protein within the virus. Subsequently, they used their generative chemistry platform, Chemistry42, to create new molecules that would attack the identified protein. The final product, ISM3312, was proven effective in February 2020 and a patent application was filed by the company in April 2020.
Ongoing Trials and Future Prospects
Currently, ISM3312 is being evaluated in Phase I studies to assess its safety and tolerability in healthy volunteers. The drug is also being tested against the EG.5 COVID variant. The results of these clinical trials are anticipated to be released by the end of 2023.
Dr. Harvey Castro, a Dallas, Texas-based emergency medicine physician and AI in healthcare speaker, sees ISM3312 as a "significant step forward" in the fight against COVID-19 and the utilization of AI for drug discovery. However, he also stressed the need for doctors to stay updated on clinical trials and research data for ISM3312 and to consider a patient’s existing medication regimen before prescribing a new drug.
The advent of AI in drug discovery presents promising possibilities for the future of healthcare. With the ongoing threat of COVID-19 and its mutating strains, the need for effective treatments is paramount. The development and successful trials of AI-generated drugs like ISM3312 could pave the way for faster, more efficient drug discovery processes. However, it’s crucial that this progress is balanced with thorough testing and research to ensure the safety and efficacy of such treatments.