Generative AI can deliver life-changing disease treatments

Generative artificial intelligence may be having its banner moment, but the technology existed long before ChatGPT and DALL-E. It began in 2014 with a paper by Ian Goodfellow and several other researchers entitled “Generative Adversarial Networks” (GANs). Goodfellow is a computer scientist who worked for Google Brain and Apple and is currently with DeepMind. Today, his paper has been cited more than 55,000 times and underpins several AI tools.

Nearly a decade ago, Goodfellow uncovered a breakthrough: by using technology to draw on large amounts of data, AI tools can generate “synthetic” data under the right conditions. Over time, with constant training and feedback, the system learns to provide synthetic data closely aligned with the desired output. Today, these synthetic data might include smart contract code, fraud detection algorithms, and of course, hyperrealistic avatars with your face in the metaverse.

Generative AI not only solves challenges like coding and risk management but also drives powerful biotech innovations. Despite advances in manufacturing and discovery, it still takes 10-15 years and costs millions of dollars to bring a drug from discovery to market. And instead of declining with technological advances, the cost to bring a drug to market is only increasing.

AI can optimize speed and efficiency in drug discovery by streamlining new targets, designing new drugs, and even determining the likelihood of clinical trial success.

Generative AI enters the chemistry world

In 2016, Dr Alex Zhavoronkov, founder of drug discovery unicorn Insilico Medicine, made waves in the chemistry world by presenting generative AI technology at conferences from London to San Francisco. His research findings seemed farfetched to some but transformative to others–GANs, combined with reinforcement learning, could generate novel molecules for treating diseases.

Seven years ago, many still found AI a sci-fi, futuristic concept. Zhavoronkov brought examples of the technology’s ability to make something new to change people’s minds. He added petals to photographed flowers and generated unique faces to explain how AI can create new molecules. The chemists were skeptical, but Zhavoronkov was undeterred. AI was going to transform our health experiences; it just needed time.

Insilico eventually showed that its AI could find new disease targets. Using generative AI technology to produce and evaluate candidates and drug targets, their platform designed new molecules that could be synthesized, tested and developed into potential treatments.

WuXi AppTec joined Insilico to develop its first generative AI-produced molecules and later invested in the company for further acceleration. Their first drug targets may surprise you: rare disease treatments. Because these diseases are so uncommon, scientists know very little about their chemical structure. AI filled in the gaps to design potential candidates where no structure was available.

They targeted the JAK3 isoform, a DNA sequence related to rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. The system generated 300,000 molecules and narrowed the selection to 100 promising targets. Humans joined the process here, with medical chemists choosing the best candidate for further development. The results were published in 2018 in Molecular Pharmaceutics with a clear promise: generative AI was here to disrupt the drug discovery space.

When will AI reach our pharmacies?

Insilico secured patents on its AI technology, but it also received patents for its work on biological aging biomarkers. The company strives to leverage AI to discover powerful anti-aging treatments. While we’re several years from these reaching our medicine cabinet shelves, Insilico is also looking closely at how we age, including measuring our biological age. Aging clocks provide researchers with valuable insights into individual aging processes.

In 2020, Insilico Medicine’s generative chemistry work launched as Chemistry42. The platform uses deep learning and reinforcement learning to generate chemical structures for treating predefined medical targets. Chemistry42 identified a completely new and potentially first-of-its-kind molecule, PandaOmics, for treating fibrosis. The Insilico team designed and synthesized 80 molecules, with one small molecule showing outstanding promise for treating idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a rare and devastating progressive lung disease.

The company had broken new ground by uniting deep learning and chemistry. Major pharmaceutical companies noticed, too, with Pfizer, Arvinas, Fosun Pharma, and Sanofi establishing partnerships with Insilico.

By February 2022, Insilico crossed another threshold by bringing its IPF drug to Phase 1 clinical trials in under 30 months. In January 2023, those Phase 1 trials announced positive topline results, and in February 2023, the IPF drug received Orphan Drug Designation from the FDA. It’s time for Phase 2 clinical trials, where actual IPF patients will enter clinical trials and test the potentially life-changing treatment option.

Next up for AI-generated drugs? COVID-19. Insilico’s oral treatment, ISM3312, will soon enter clinical trials in China. The drug offers protection against mutations and poor outcomes for COVID patients. The world desperately needs rapid solutions to emergent diseases.

Generative AI transcends creative images and in-depth coding. It will change how physicians treat diseases and save countless lives. There’s plenty of room for blockchain too–drug discovery scientists can use DLT to securely exchange clinical research data.

My advice for the crypto community? Join the movement. Your determination brought crypto, blockchain and stablecoins to the mainstream. You can envision a future that other people can’t, and the longevity field needs your unique perspective to help bring this next generation of tech to the fore. Test AI tools in your workspace, read up on AI tokens and monitor medical news for future discoveries. We live in a unique time for technological progress, and it’s our responsibility to support its life-changing outcomes. Merging cutting-edge technology with traditional research and discovery is what will bring all of these life-changing inventions to more people.

Artificial intelligence, robots and blockchain deliver next-generation healthcare, today

Pharmacy visitors expect quick service – to have their prescription filled quickly, or over-the-counter remedy purchased in just a few minutes. In this rapid interaction, little thought goes to the journey of that medicine from a microscope slide to mass production. 

In reality, the drug discovery process is incredibly time and research-intensive. Despite significant advancements in manufacturing and discovery, the average time to bring a drug from the initial stage to market is 10-15 years and costs millions of dollars.

Emerging technologies are transforming healthcare and drug discovery. Artificial intelligence, for example, is doing the “dirty work” of drug discovery by running simulations of drug efficacy instead of timely trial-and-error testing. Blockchain secures healthcare records and connects patients with new clinical trials. AR and VR tools help patients overcome phobias and fear during medical treatments. AI will help future drugs reach the market (some believe this can be cut down to just five years!), delivering life-changing results for illness sufferers worldwide. 

The biggest obstacle to achieving these changes and this tech going mainstream? Us, the patients. We all need to understand the power and promise of these technologies and push for them – or, at least, not fear them.

Supporting AI and blockchain in the healthcare sector

There’s a popular image going around on social media that reads, “AI will not replace jobs. People using AI will replace people’s jobs.” With its easy-to-use interface, ChatGPT is showing people how AI might look in our day-to-day lives. One thing you probably can’t ask the chatbot for? A new compound for a pill to cure deadly diseases. And that’s good because AI applications in medicine should be managed by professionals.

These professionals have known about the power of AI for years, working behind the scenes to develop real use cases. Insilico Medicine brought its knowledge into the spotlight when it announced its “sixth-generation” robotics laboratory in early January. Sixth-gen status means the lab is fully automated, with robotics and AI algorithms conducting ​​target discovery, compound screening, precision medicine development, and translational research. 

You may be wondering, what does fully automated mean for the scientists previously doing these jobs at Insilico? It’s just as the image I mentioned earlier suggests: by integrating technology and speeding up processes, researchers can focus on the “human” side of their work. They are free to focus on critical tasks like clinical trial development and side effect studies because they know technology handles the rest. Ask anyone in biotech: AI is now foundational to drug discovery,

AI-native Insilico Medicine is no stranger to this emerging tech. In 2019, the company partnered with clinical trial startup Longenesis and a South Korean medical center to create a blockchain-powered health data management tool. They designed the platform to protect patient information and comply with guidelines like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Patients may have known these guidelines existed but did not understand how to manage their data effectively. In contrast, blockchain technology brings these regulations to life, empowering patients to manage their privacy and monitor their data. That’s where the future of health tech lies, at patients’ fingertips. 

Calling all patients: Healthcare transformation is in your hands

One of the lasting takeaways from COVID-19 was how crisis catalyzes breakthroughs. When faced with a common threat, scientific collaboration was not just a feel-good initiative–it was a dire mandate. The results were astonishing and historic. Scientists from around the globe used existing research to produce a vaccine in just a year, remarkably faster than the typical 5-10 year vaccine development timeline. 

The breakthroughs continued after vaccine distribution. Scientists today are applying the mRNA technology used in COVID jabs to develop new vaccines. Their targets? Devastating and hard-to-treat diseases like colorectal cancers and Lyme. AI and other technologies will help accelerate this process and propel this innovation forward, supporting researchers to change (and save) lives. 

2020 also taught us that public health matters for everyone. The onslaught of COVID brought concepts like mRNA and cytokine storms into daily life as people tuned into news reports and scientific publications to stay informed. This trend needs to continue. We have a responsibility to stay educated about healthcare breakthroughs as they impact us immeasurably. I cannot stress this enough: to take advantage of the future of medicine, you need to keep an open mind. 

I have complete faith in the crypto community to take this to heart. We’ve seen the technology behind Bitcoin redefine the digital art world with NFTs. We’ve witnessed DAOs revamp how teams manage projects. We’ve raised money for the world’s most important causes using decentralized tech. Now, it’s time for us to explore the next frontier of health. Scientists are building a future where AI-discovered medicines, virtual appointments and psychedelic mental health treatments will be the norm. Are you ready to be part of it?

The scientific community came together before to deliver life-changing research, and it is time for us to rally again in support of a more digital future of health. I encourage you to donate to research organizations, get smart on health tech and explore what artificial intelligence and personalized medicine could mean for your personal care. Resources are available across the web, and joining communities like nonprofits, DAOs and Discord chats is a great place to get started. In conclusion: technology can and will transform our health. It’s up to us to bring this transformation to life.