Anti-aging drugs in MIT’s 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2020

For the last 20 years MIT Technology Review’s Breakthrough Technologies 2020 has been assessing the way we live, work and invest. 

Back in 2001, MIT Technology Review’s Breakthrough Technologies 2020 figured that Digital Rights Management would be a top 10 technology, considering that was the year that Napster settled its lawsuits, they were probably onto something. This year, the 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2020 list aligns nicely with our view on the world. We’re pleased to see that both ‘Anti-aging drugs‘ and ‘AI discovered molecules’ made the cut.

MIT Technology Review’s Adam Piore, wrote: “The first wave of a new class of anti-aging drugs have begun human testing. These drugs won’t let you live longer (yet) but aim to treat specific ailments by slowing or reversing a fundamental process of aging. These drugs are called senolytics—they work by removing certain cells that accumulate as we age. Known as “senescent” cells, they can create low-level inflammation that suppresses normal mechanisms of cellular repair and creates a toxic environment for neighboring cells.”

Piore cited trials from Unity Biotechnology and Alkahest as proof of progress. We reported recently on Alkahest’s age-related therapy entering stage 2.

Alkahest lab team
Picture: Alkahest’s team working in the lab (Source: Alkahest)
“Age-related macular degeneration is currently the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the over-65 population of the developed world,” said Elizabeth Jeffords, Chief Strategy Officer at Alkahest. Pointing out that the global prevalence of the condition is expected to increase from 170 million people to 288 million people by 2040, she added: “The addition of a safe and effective oral treatment option could have a profound impact on the treatment of this growing population.”

With an availability horizon of 3-5 years, AI-discovered molecules are hot, Insilico Medicine‘s research together with the University of Toronto was highlighted.

‘The ability of deep learning and other AI tools to find novel molecules with desirable properties will transform drug discovery. It promises to make the development of new medicines far faster and more effective, and is an important new tool in the hunt for better drugs. Insilico Medicine has been a leader in using some of the most exciting techniques in AI, such as GANs [Generative Adversarial Networks], for drug discovery. And, with the latest results, GANs is proving to be a powerful new tool for finding promising molecules.’ said David Rotman, Editor at Large.

Insilco have been at this for some time and have been hitting their stride. The five-year-old artificial intelligence software developer last week published, on its website, the molecular structure of several hundred chemical compounds, which are designed to work on a key “target” of the coronavirus. It is now seeking feedback from medicinal chemists, and aims to synthesise and test up to 100 of them with partners [1].

On the same day, Insilico Medicine announced the launch of its Entrepreneur in Residence program in brain cancers with the objective to externalize the effort before August, 2020. The program will be led by pharma industry expert and seasoned R&D scientist, Dr. George Okafo.

Alex Zhavoronkov Technology Review selects AI Molecular Design
Alex Zhavoronkov, PhD, co-founder, and CEO of Insilico Medicine

“I remember the first AI and drug discovery conferences in early 2016 when we presented the first theoretical basis for using the Adversarial Autoencoders (AAE) for the generation of new molecular structures with desired properties. I had to spend a lot of time explaining the principles using images and the deep learning folks did not get the chemistry part and chemists were lost in math and asked for experimental validation. No one took it seriously.

Now, most pharmaceutical companies started their internal generative chemistry groups. I am very happy to see that,” said Alex Zhavoronkov, PhD, co-founder, and CEO of Insilico Medicine.


Image credit: MIT Technology Review, Insilico Medicine and Alkahest