Together, as a research and development team, they will create an advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform that can find promising new drugs and identify effective combinations of therapeutics.

The new AI platform aims to improve the process of finding and approving new drugs, making it faster and more cost-effective. It does this by supporting targeted approaches to drug repositioning—when existing drugs can be used to treat a wider range of diseases.

“The landscape of pharmaceuticals is undergoing a revolutionary shift with the integration of AI into drug discovery and development,” says project leader Associate Professor Fatemeh Vafaee, Deputy Director of UNSW Data Science Hub (uDASH), member of the UNSW AI Institute, and Lead Investigator of Med-Tech.AI Next-Generation Graduate Program.

Using AI in drug discovery

Medical researchers are now using AI algorithms to advance the processing of large-scale data for new discoveries.

Usually, the pre-clinical stage of drug discovery can take up to six years, potentially costing billions of dollars. But AI tools are helping speed up the development process—by repositioning drugs, identifying drug interactions, assessing toxicity, and predicting novel drug targets. This helps guide researchers towards more promising avenues of investigation, and at a lower cost.

“AI platforms can analyse complex data generated from large molecular screening profiles, molecular structures, drug mechanisms of action, personal health records, and genetic information,” A/Professor Vafaee said.

A unique/strategic partnership

The partnership builds upon sophisticated AI models that were already developed by a team of data and AI specialists within the Biomedical AI Laboratory, led by A/Prof Vafaee.

These existing platforms, powered by advanced computational pipelines and extensive drug datasets, have already achieved notable successes. These include repurposing drugs for cancer treatment and predicting synergistic drug combinations effective against SARS-CoV-2.

The project strategically leverages the wealth of expertise in AI, data science and drug discovery that resides within uDASH and the UNSW AI Institute.

In collaborating closely with Algorae, A/Prof Vafaee leads a team of researchers to expand and refine this model with a specific focus on the company’s objectives.

This collaborative effort includes the ambitious goal of generating novel drug combinations that hold promise for comprehensive clinical investigation.

“We will be using this AI platform to create predictive models that enable the repurposing of existing drugs, either alone or in combinations, for new therapeutic uses with high precision and efficiency, while also expediting benefits and preventing costly failures in the drug discovery pipeline,” A/Prof Vafaee said.