AstraZeneca collects 2nd pulmonary fibrosis target from BenevolentAI collaboration

AstraZeneca and BenevolentAI have notched another achievement in their artificial-intelligence-powered drug discovery collaboration.

First launched in 2019, the pair previously landed on novel targets in chronic kidney disease and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis last year. This past January, the Big Pharma reupped the agreement for another three years, lining up new objectives in heart failure and lupus.

But the old work never stopped: Mere months later, BenevolentAI has now reported that AstraZeneca selected an additional novel target in pulmonary fibrosis—claiming it for its lung disease portfolio in return for a milestone payment of an undisclosed amount.  

“IPF is a devastating disease with median survival of around 3 years and there is a serious need for better treatment options,” Maria Belvisi, AstraZeneca’s head of research and early development for immunology and respiratory diseases, said in a statement.

BenevolentAI used its disease-agnostic platform to analyze AstraZeneca’s proprietary biomedical data alongside information from sources such as available scientific literature and patents plus other results from genetic, chemistry and clinical experiments.

The companies said their researchers worked “side-by-side” to parse the underlying mechanisms of pulmonary fibrosis and test out computer-generated hypotheses in wet-lab facilities.

“Our AI-enabled approach empowers scientists to explore all the available evidence to unravel the enormous complexity of biological systems and the underlying mechanisms of disease,” said BenevolentAI Chief Scientific Officer Anne Phelan, Ph.D.

Now with three total targets selected for AstraZeneca’s portfolio, future development successes in those areas could lead to additional milestone payments and sales-based royalties, the companies said.

In the interim, BenevolentAI officially went public in late April with the closure of its special purpose acquisition company deal, delivering gross proceeds of about 225 million euros. The company began trading on Euronext Amsterdam, while former Sanofi CEO Olivier Brandicourt and Jean Raby, former CEO of Natixis Investment Managers, joined its board of directors.