AI Cutting Development of Cancer Drug in Half

Berg Health has developed an AI that will allow it to be more "predictive and effective" during the development of its cancer-fighting drug BPM31510 and cut the time to market from 14 years to seven.

Berg Health, a pharmaceutical startup founded in 2008, says the use of artificial intelligence (AI) is cutting the development time of its new cancer-fighting drug in half.

The company says its drug will go on sale within three years or seven years since development started. Usually, Berg Health says, it takes 14 years for these types of drugs to come to market

“‘There’s a lot of trial and error in the old model [of developing drugs] so a lot of those costs are due to the failure of really expensive clinical trials,” Niven Narain, a clinical oncologist and Berg Health co-founder, tells The Telegraph. “We’re able to be more predictive and effective ... and that’s going to cut hundreds of millions of dollars off the cost.’

Berg Health uses an AI to compare the biological profiles of individuals with aggressive forms of cancer to the biological profiles of people who don’t have cancer. The AI then predicts who will respond best to the drug, based on differences between their profiles.

“We’re looking at 14 trillion data points in a single tissue sample. We can’t humanly process that,” says Narain. “Because we’re taking this data-driven approach we need a supercomputer capability.”

He continues, “We use them for mathematics in a big data analytic platform, so it can collate that data into various categories: healthy population for women, for men, disease candidates etc, and it’s able to take these slices in time and integrate them so that we’re able to see where it’s gone wrong and develop drugs based on that information.”

Here’s how Berg’s cancer-fighting drug, BPM31510, works, according to the report:

Healthy cells feed on glucose in the body and die off, in a process known as cell death, when their usefulness draws to a close. But in some circumstances the mitochondria - the parts of the cell that provide its energy - malfunction and metabolise lactic acid instead of glucose, turning off their built-in cell death function at the same time. The cell can then becomes cancerous and a tumour grows. Berg’s drug, BPM31510, will reactivate the mitochondria, restarting the metabolising of glucose as normal and reinstituting cell death, so the body can harmlessly pass the problem cells out of the body.

AI is also being used in developing brain cancer treatments that are tailored to individuals. As the BBC reports, San Francisco-based Atomwise is trying to find new combinations of approved drugs that could treat brain cancer. Its AI can test chemical compounds artificially and design treatments that would be most effective.


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