Insilico appoints co-CEO in readiness for clinical data test

Dr Feng Ren, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and head of global research and development is set to leverage his GSK drug discovery leadership experience as he is named co-CEO of Insilico Medicine.

Insilico Medicine, a global clinical-stage artificial intelligence (AI)-powered drug discovery and development company, has announced the appointment of Dr Feng Ren as a co-CEO.

Longevity.Technology: In addition to continuing in his roles as Insilico Medicine’s Chief Scientific Officer and Head of Global Research and Development, Dr Ren will also oversee clinical development with full control over discovery, development and infrastructure. The appointment solidifies Insilico’s commitment to both AI and drug development – Alex Zhavoronkov, PhD, will continue to serve as CEO and focus on global expansion and next-generation AI platforms while Dr Ren will drive the company’s drug development efforts and Insilico’s business development.

This announcement comes hot on the heels of Insilico’s latest round which saw it raise $60 million. Insilico is building out its clinical presence, planning in-human drug testing as well as continuing with its highly-successful drug design and discovery. Efficiency continues to be one of Insilico’s watchwords, having recently launched an AI-powered drug discovery robotics laboratory and planning to use its new operational structure to “set records in drug discovery and clinical development [1].”

After obtaining a PhD in organic chemistry from Harvard University, Ren spent 15 years in drug discovery and development in the healthcare industry, joining Insilico Medicine from Medicilon, a global CRO, where he served as Senior Vice President and Head of Drug R&D, leading the chemistry and biology departments. Prior to joining Medicilon, Ren served in various drug discovery leadership roles at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in both Philadelphia and Shanghai.

He advised Insilico prior to joining the company, evaluating the potential of its end-to-end biology and chemistry AI platform. In February 2021, Ren became Insilico’s Chief Scientific Officer, overseeing internal drug discovery efforts, and helped Insilico deliver the first AI-discovered novel target and AI-designed novel molecule into IND-enabling studies.

“I am excited to find new solutions to accelerate and improve drug discovery. As an advisor, I saw that Insilico had tapped into AI’s potential in new ways,” said Ren. “What impressed me the most was that the team led by Alex had years of experience solving pharmaceutical challenges. I recognized a company that was ready to discover novel therapeutics at scale and with high efficiency. It was an incredible opportunity, so I was very glad to make the leap and shift into AIDD [1].”

Under Ren’s leadership, Insilico expanded the drug discovery team and developed a growing portfolio in frontier areas. Since 2021, the company has nominated 8 preclinical candidates and advanced into IND-enabling studies, including with a novel 3CL protease inhibitor for COVID-19 treatment, and two synthetic lethality programs targeting MAT2A and USP1 for oncology indications. It also successfully completed a Phase 0 microdose study and entered a Phase I clinical trial with its first internally developed program targeting fibrosis. Ren also contributed significantly to company strategies, business development and geographic site operations.

“Dr Ren is a phenomenal leader and innovator, and I am thrilled to take Insilico Medicine to the next stage with him as a co-captain,” said Alex Zhavoronkov, PhD, Founder and CEO of Insilico Medicine. “Since Dr Ren joined the company, we set several industry records. The vision that we presented to top pharma executives when the company was founded in 2014 has become a reality. We never imagined how quickly we would advance our drug candidate with a novel target and novel molecule discovered and designed using Insilico’s proprietary AI into the clinic. Dr Ren and I are ready to follow this first success with many more [1].”

The company has innovated in a number of areas, including developing a discovery model where multiple CROs perform redundant experiments to ensure that data is validated. Under Dr. Ren’s leadership, Insilico has also built a discovery team in the same time zone with the CROs. Also, the company recently announced a fully automated AI-driven robotics lab which will be launched later this year.

“We are at a pivotal moment. We have a clinical program, and we are hopeful that many other programs will soon reach the clinical stage. We are also in the process of establishing a fully automated AI-driven robotics lab, a cutting-edge technology to accelerate our drug R&D,” said Feng Ren, Ph.D., Co-CEO and CSO of Insilico Medicine.

“To grow, we are building a new, innovative organizational structure with many individual contributors and teams driving innovation with passion, dedication, and the highest level of operational excellence. Simultaneously, we continue to maintain our focus on growing and advancing our proprietary AI platform. I am pleased to serve as Co-CEO and look forward to taking the company to the next level, delivering on our commitment to accelerate drug discovery and development, and contributing to unmet medical needs for patients worldwide [1].”