A pioneering real AI drug discovery technology
The rapid growth of computing power, data availability and the development of advanced genetic algorithms have led to very relevant breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI). AI applications are used for a wide range of fields in the life sciences sector. But moreover, AI is revolutionising drug discovery and specially drug repurposing.
SOM Biotech works with a proprietary ligand-based in-silico platform, SOMAI PRO that has proven to be an outstanding tool to successfully identify drugs with similar or better biological activity compared to a reference compound acting on a disease-related target. The drug discovery approach is fundamentally based on molecular structures, and particularly on their structural and physicochemical properties – the “molecular fields” (MFs). SOMAI PRO aligns the MFs of the reference compound with those of a comprehensive Phase II-and-up compound database, using evolutionary algorithms. In this way, SOMAI PRO finds ready-to-repurpose non-structural analogues that can bind to the same target protein as the reference compound, causing the specific desired biological response. As simple as that.
Evolutionary algorithms are inspired by biological evolution. The algorithm proposes solutions to an optimisation problem (in this case, MFs alignment); these solutions are then evaluated by a fitness function and the “fittest” ones are crossed to create the next generation of solutions. This process is iteratively repeated to find the best solution. The number of iterations that SOMAI PRO performs has been optimised through extensive validation. Once the best candidates are selected, their predicted biological response is subsequently verified in vitro.
SOMAI PRO is a powerful tool with high predictive power. In 30% of the unmet medical indications selected, the system has been able to find active
candidates and in 12% of those projects a drug has successfully reached Phase II positive results. The platform is being continuously improved and updated and today it works not only to identify compounds for a specific disease, but also to identify molecular targets and associated therapeutic areas, indications, or diseases for a given compound. This can be very useful because a compound that failed clinical studies for lack of efficacy can be found to act on a different target and can therefore be repurposed for another indication. In addition, SOMAI PRO can be also applied in early-stage drug discovery projects, when new chemical scaffolds have to be explored, taking special care to retain key molecular physicochemical properties.
The high success rate in SOM Biotech’s drug discovery process is clearly linked to the expertise of its team. It is not a routine activity: the process of compound identification to preclinical candidate selection and validation requires significant know-how from scientists and experts of a variety of disciplines. The approach is flexible depending on the characteristics of a specific drug or target discovery program. SOM Biotech screens different Phase II-and-up compound collections and uses a proprietary library of druggable targets, with the ultimate goal being to provide readily available, effective, and safe treatments to patients.
This article was published in the European Biotechnology Magazine Winter Edition 2020.