Sanofi pays $10M upfront in hope 'biological map of proteins' leads to drug discovery treasure

Sanofi’s ambition to become “the first pharma company powered by artificial intelligence at scale” came one step closer today in a deal with California’s BioMap worth over $1 billion in biobucks.

Menlo Park-based BioMap has used an AI engine to turn data sets into “what is essentially a biological map of proteins,” Chief Technology Officer Le Song explained in the Oct. 10 release. The aim is to ensure the “superior prediction” of potential protein therapies can be applied to immunology, neurology, oncology and rare diseases.

To collaborate on this tech, Sanofi is handing over $10 million upfront, with the prospect of more than $1 billion to follow in module development, preclinical development, clinical development, regulatory and commercial milestones.

“As the largest foundational model-based approach within life sciences, we are thrilled to collaborate with Sanofi and leverage the potential of BioMap’s cutting-edge AI engine to help solve complex problems associated with new protein therapies to drive drug discovery,” Song added in this morning’s release.

The news follows a series of AI-focused partnerships announced by Sanofi in the past couple of years. They have included working with Exscientia to discover new oncology and immunology drugs and a small-molecule-focused pact with AtomWise as well as collaborations with Insilico and Owkin.

In June, the Big Pharma even unveiled an app developed with AI company Aily Labs to give a “360° view across all Sanofi activities” to support the company’s various teams. It was during this announcement that the drugmaker set out its ambitions to be a pioneer for AI use in the sector.

Matt Truppo, Sanofi’s global head of research platforms, said that today’s BioMap collaboration “further underscores Sanofi’s commitment to becoming the first pharma company powered by artificial intelligence at scale.”

“By combining Sanofi’s proprietary data sets, digital infrastructure, AI and data science capabilities, and drug development expertise with BioMap’s protein large language models, high-performance computing, and deep understanding of AI, we can optimize the process of discovery and development of breakthrough biotherapeutics,” Trupo added in the release.