Researching, developing and approving new drugs for the commercial market can take years and cost billions of dollars. Associate Professor Fatemeh Vafaee is from the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at UNSW Sydney, and Deputy Director of the UNSW Data Science Hub. She leads a research and development team who are working on building an advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform to fast-track the discovery and development of new drug combinations.

The platform will save the pharmaceutical industry time and money, while delivering targeted therapies to patients who are already in need.

The Algorae Operating System (AlgoraeOS) is a UNSW Sydney partnership with biotechnology company Algorae Pharmaceuticals Ltd.

“The landscape of pharmaceuticals is undergoing a revolutionary shift with the integration of AI into drug discovery and development." 
- Associate Professor Fatemeh Vafaee

Challenges & opportunities

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

AlgoraeOS aims to improve the process of finding and approving new drugs, making the trials process faster and more cost-effective. It does this by supporting targeted approaches to drug repositioning. This is when existing drugs, either alone or in combinations, are applied for new therapeutic uses—effectively treating a wider range of diseases.

AI-driven drug discovery and development can potentially revolutionise the pharmaceutical landscape. AI algorithms can enhance the analysis of clinical data, biological data, molecular structures and genetic information, which enables a rapid identification of drug targets with higher precision and efficiency.

AI can also help streamline pre-clinical and clinical study design.

Usually, the pre-clinical stage of drug discovery can take up to 6 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.

The partnership builds upon sophisticated AI models that were already developed by A/Prof Vafaee’s team of data and AI specialists within her Biomedical AI Laboratory.

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

“AI platforms can analyse complex data generated from large molecular screening profiles, molecular structures, drug mechanisms of action, personal health records, and genetic information."

 - Associate Professor Fatemeh Vafaee.

Forward focused

“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.

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