Flagship's Pioneering Medicines to carve a new drug discovery path with Charles River's AI

A year after Charles River Laboratories teamed up with Flagship Pioneering-founded artificial intelligence developer Valo Health to build an AI-powered drug discovery and development platform, the contract research organization is putting that tech to work.

Pioneering Medicines, a drug development initiative housed within Flagship Pioneering, has inked a deal to use Charles River’s Logica platform to single out small molecules that could be used to create new drug candidates “across a portfolio of targets.”

The partners didn’t disclose the specific diseases that’ll be in the crosshairs nor the financial terms of their agreement in Thursday’s announcement but noted that the ultimate aim of the collaboration is to develop novel therapies for conditions that have largely gone untreated.

“By utilizing Logica, a uniquely integrated AI platform, we’re hopeful that we can more quickly advance well-characterized molecules through the development process and create and deliver novel medicines for patients sooner,” Paul Biondi, president of Pioneering Medicines and an executive partner of Flagship, said in the announcement.

After forging the initial partnership to draw on Valo Health’s AI expertise in January 2022, Charles River debuted the Logica platform in April.

The tool builds on Valo’s existing Opal Computational Platform, which the company constructed to be used throughout the entire drug-building process: from target discovery to molecule design to clinical development. The Opal platform uses machine learning AI to analyze patient data and trillions of molecules to identify potential drug targets and model the safety and efficacy of the resulting therapies.

To date, Valo has used Opal to usher two drug candidates into Phase 2 studies—one aimed at treating left ventricular dysfunction and acute kidney injury caused by coronary artery disease, and another designed to address complications of diabetes, including diabetic retinopathy.

The partnership inked last year added Charles River’s clinical lab expertise to the mix, boosting the tool’s capabilities in high-throughput screening, medicinal chemistry, safety testing, investigational new drug applications and more.

The resulting Logica platform is meant to be offered to clients like Pioneering Medicines to speed up their drug development efforts, with most of the users’ costs linked to the actual success of the process.

According to Charles River and Valo, the AI software can produce an advanceable lead series 90% of the time, which will in turn translate into legitimate development candidates 58% of the time. Additionally, as Julie Frearson, Ph.D., Charles River’s chief scientific officer, said in Thursday’s announcement, “Logica’s unique platform has the capability to transform a drug target into a first-in-class development candidate in just over two years.”