Insilico Medicine's AI zeroes in on new drug targets for aging, age-related diseases

Forget the Fountain of Youth—the real key to slowing down aging and its many related illnesses may lie within Insilico Medicine’s artificial intelligence platform.

New research published Tuesday in the journal Aging describes how Insilico’s PandaOmics software was able to predict molecular targets for new drugs to treat both aging and age-associated diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cirrhosis, rheumatoid arthritis and more.

Within the Hong Kong-based company’s Pharma.AI drug discovery and development suite, PandaOmics is first on the call sheet, with its AI designed to sift through multiomic data to identify potential targets within minutes. It’s followed by the Chemistry42 engine to design novel molecules within a week and the InClinico software to design and predict clinical trials of those drug candidates.

In the anti-aging project, PandaOmics’ AI scoured transcriptomics data to generate a list of the top 100 molecular targets associated with 14 age-associated diseases and top 100 targets for 19 diseases not linked to aging. Comparing them allowed researchers to narrow down the list to those genes specific to age-related illnesses.

The remaining targets were classified by their individual relation to specific hallmarks of aging—the most common of which was inflammation—then ranked according to a series of criteria that included the number of disease classes they were connected to and the amount of past scientific evidence linking the targets to their respective diseases.

The resulting ranking offered a measure of each target’s potential druggability—that is, how likely it is to respond to treatment—and the trade-off between whether it was a novel target or a previously identified one, indicating higher confidence in its druggability.

Though the targets were initially selected based on their connection to specific age-related diseases before looking at their impact on the biological processes of aging itself, that approach could still slow aging, since it aims for “the extension of lifespan by extending healthspan, the period of lifetime free from diseases and disabilities caused by aging,” Insilico said in a blog post about the research.

As such, a drug designed around the targets that were linked to multiple age-related diseases could potentially have anti-aging benefits for wide swaths of patients even if they don’t have any of those specific diseases, according to Insilico.

In total, the entire process—from coming up with the concept of using AI for the analysis of age-associated diseases to performing the analysis to submitting the results for publication—took less than two months, Insilico said.

The company has made a name for itself with its similarly rapid approach to discovering, designing and beginning trials of entirely new drug compounds. In early 2021, Insilico announced that the Pharma.AI platform had discovered a novel target linked to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and designed a new drug based off those findings all in the span of less than 18 months and for less than $3 million. Human trials of the drug began last November.