4:45 PM
 | 
Jan 11, 2019
 |  BC Extra  |  Company News

Atomwise, Charles River partnership brings CRO model to AI

Atomwise Inc. (San Francisco, Calif.) is scaling up delivery of its artificial intelligence-based medicinal chemistry technology through a partnership with Charles River Laboratories International Inc. (NYSE:CRL) announced Friday. The alliance gives drug developers a CRO access point for AI technologies, circumventing the need for individual deals, and provides Atomwise with additional streams of revenue and data to feed its platform.

Through the partnership, Charles River customers can pay to use Atomwise's AtomNet platform for in silico hit discovery, lead optimization and off-target toxicity screening. The platform uses neural networks to infer chemistry principles from large data sets, and applies those principles to predict interactions between protein targets and small molecules.

Atomwise CEO Abraham Heifets told BioCentury the Charles River alliance makes partnering with drug developers more efficient, and signals that the technology has gone from being a speculative idea to a standard tool.

Atomwise will receive an undisclosed technology access fee for each project, and is eligible for payouts based on the success of its screens and royalties on commercialized products. Based on projections from a 2009 McKinsey historical analysis published in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, Atomwise thinks the total value of royalties could exceed $2.4 billion.

Heifets said the company has 238 projects from existing individual partnerships with companies and institutions such as Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE:MRK), and from its Artificial Intelligence Molecular Screen (AIMS) awards program, which has so far given academics from more than 100 institutions free access to compounds against their targets of interest (see "Testing Intelligence").

He declined to disclose the status of these partnered projects, but said the company plans to present an aggregate analysis of the results of its AIMS program in the future.

Scaling up project volume is key to Atomwise's technology development, Heifets said. "The more projects you work on, the better tuned the system gets."

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