Insilico Medicine has launched ALS.AI, a drug discovery platform for new amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) treatments. It uses a powerful new analytical approach involving “deep learning” to seek out new therapies for the disease — and to evaluate whether existing drugs used to treat other diseases can be repurposed for treating ALS.
Deep learning is computer technology that can analyze large amounts of very complex data, in this case, collected from ALS patients. ALS.AI is designed to generate and apply algorithms, or mathematical formulas, to pinpoint possible causes of the disease and predict patient responses to candidate drugs.
New treatments for ALS are needed urgently, since the two existing treatments approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — Rilutek (riluzole) and Radicava (edaravone) — can only slow progression of the disorder. These drugs don’t reverse the damage caused by ALS, and not all patients respond to them.
On this project, Insilico — a Baltimore-based bioinformatics company located on the campus of Johns Hopkins University — has partnered with Above and Beyond (A&B), an organization that manages and funds research on ALS.
Above and Beyond will provide transcriptomic data, or measures of the expression of different genes, from ALS individuals to be analyzed by Insilico’s ALS.AI platform. That platform will then search for personalized drugs and biomarkers, using the latest advances in deep learning.
“ALS is one of the rare diseases without a cure or an effective treatment,” Insilico CEO Alex Zhavoronkov said in a press release. “We are happy to work with Above and Beyond to identify new treatments for ALS using the latest developments in AI.”
Alexandre Bétourné, chief medical officer of Atlanta-based Above and Beyond, added: “Our business model embraces partnership. With the combination of traditional in vitro methods and new technologies such as AI, we are positioned to work with our partners to identify new treatments for the disease.”
Insilico, which also does research on aging, recently won the American Chemical Society Editors’ Choice Award for its work generating new candidate anti-cancer molecules. It was also named one of the top five companies with most social impact among over 600 companies using NVIDIA deep learning equipment.