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BioMed X, an independent research organization housed on the campus of the University of Heidelberg, Germany, announced it has signed a research collaboration with Sanofi to develop an artificial intelligence (AI) computational platform to predict the efficacy of first-in-class drugs using virtual patient populations. The initial proof-of-concept phase of the collaboration will focus on chronic, immune-mediated diseases including atopic dermatitis (AD) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

“In the past two years, we have gained significant experience in the field of artificial intelligence through our strategic partnership with AION Labs in Israel,” noted Christian Tidona, founder and managing director of the BioMed X Institute. “Our new collaboration with Sanofi allows us to further extend our data science and AI expertise in Heidelberg, where we have developed an ideal incubation environment for biomedical innovation at the interface between academia and industry.”

The use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in drug discovery and development is increasing rapidly in the biopharma industry. Virtual patient populations and digital twining seek to leverage vast data troves to of prior research to help inform which drug candidates should be prioritized for further development with an eye toward reducing the high costs associated with the industry’s current 90% failure rate of drug candidates in clinical development.

By collaborating with BioMed X, Sanofi is looking to leverage the research institute’s model of engaging early-career scientists from leading academic centers to serve as an early-stage incubators of innovation approaches to biomedical research and development. BioMed X says it operates “at the interface between academia and industry” to perform biomedical research. Its research partners are a veritable “Who’s Who” within the worldwide pharma sector including Boehringer Ingelheim, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Roche, and AbbVie, among others. It currently has ongoing research collaborations in the fields of oncology, immunology, neuroscience, and platform technologies.

For its work with Sanofi, BioMed X will work with the pharma company to jointly select a team of scientists, using BioMed X’s existing recruiting model, which includes a global call for applications to be on the team followed by a five-day innovation boot camp. The winning team for the project will be hosted for up to five years at the BioMed X Institute in the life sciences campus at Heidelberg University to begin developing the AI capabilities needed to test candidate drugs with high precision in virtual patient populations using data provided by Sanofi.

“Identifying quality clinical candidates for treatment of patients with unmet need is among the most rewarding parts of the research and development process,” said Frank Nestle, global head of research and chief scientific officer at Sanofi. “This groundbreaking research collaboration will allow us to partner with scientists with unique computational skills and diverse capabilities that will help us to achieve our goals of bringing vital treatments to patients with chronic inflammatory diseases. This collaboration will be instrumental for advancing with our core mission of transforming drug discovery and development through application of AI-based modeling and simulation.”

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