Picture of protein structure used to illustrate AlphaFold database release
Credit: Karen Arnott, EMBL-EBI

With its first big deals since its launch about two years ago, AI spinout Isomorphic yesterday announced two agreements worth $3B worth with each Eli Lilly and Novartis to apply AI to discover new drugs. Isomorphic is built around Google DeepMind’s neural network-based model AlphaFold, a breakthrough platform for protein structure prediction. 

Lilly will pay $45 million upfront to discover small molecule therapies aimed at undisclosed disease targets with more than $1.7 billion in milestone payments. Similarly, the deal with Novartis includes $37.5 million in upfront cash with $1.2 billion in potential milestones. In this deal Isomorphic will be be identifying small molecules against three undisclosed targets

AlphaFold isthe first computational method that can regularly predict protein structures with atomic accuracy even in cases in which no similar structure is known.” It uses a novel end‐to‐end deep neural network trained to produce protein structures from amino acid sequence, multiple sequence alignments, and homologous proteins.

Isomorphic says newer iterations of AlphaFold, which is already widely lauded, are expanding beyond protein predictions to include small molecules and nucleic acids. 

“Isomorphic Labs and Novartis hold a shared purpose to reimagine medicine to improve and extend people’s lives,” said Demis Hassabis, CEO and founder of Isomorphic Labs. “We are delighted to embark upon this integrated way of working, bringing Isomorphic’s state-of-the-art AI and technology platform, including the next-generation AlphaFold model, and access to massive computing power to Novartis, an established leader in the creation of innovative medicines.” 

“Cutting-edge AI technologies such as AlphaFold hold the potential to transform how we discover new drugs and accelerate our ability to deliver life-changing medicines for patients,” said Fiona Marshall, president of biomedical research at Novartis. “This collaboration harnesses our companies’ unique strengths, from AI and data science to medicinal chemistry and deep disease area expertise, to realize new possibilities in AI-driven drug discovery. We are thrilled to explore uncharted frontiers together with the Isomorphic team.” 

Isomorphic Labs operates autonomously within Alphabet, with its own dedicated resources and exclusive focus on the application of AI to drug discovery. The company reports it is “reimagining the entire drug discovery process from first principles with an AI-first approach, working to build powerful new predictive and generative models of biological phenomena to anticipate how drugs will perform and design novel molecules.”

Isomorphic says that through deep integration of this next-generation AlphaFold with other breakthrough AI models developed at Isomorphic Labs, the company is able to better understand the underlying biological mechanisms of drug targets, and rationally design novel therapeutics. 

“We’re thrilled to embark on this partnership and apply our proprietary technology platform, the next generation of AlphaFold, and access to massive computing power to Lilly’s development programs,” said Hassabis. “The focus we share on advancing groundbreaking drug design approaches and appreciation of state-of-the-art science makes this partnership particularly compelling.” 

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