Insilico, Taisho form AI partnership to tackle age-related diseases and mortal cells

A nurse holding the hands of an elderly patient
Earlier this year, Taisho Pharmaceutical licensed out its HIF-PH inhibitor aimed at age-related diseases. Now, it's tapped Insilico to discover more compounds in the space. (Getty/Rawpixel)

Taisho Pharmaceutical tapped artificial intelligence drug discovery maven Insilico Medicine to identify new therapeutic compounds that could slow the cellular effects of aging, with the ultimate goal of helping people stay healthy as they grow older.

The research collaboration will begin with Insilico using its AI networks to identify therapeutic targets and find druglike molecules that target senescent cells—that is, cells that have stopped following the cycle of division and reproduction but continue to function. 

Researchers believe the accumulation of these senescent cells as we age may be linked to a variety of diseases, as well as overall physical decline later in life.

“It is believed that aging is a universal phenomenon that we cannot stop,” said Jimmy Yen-Chu Lin, CEO of Insilico’s Taiwan-based subsidiary. “However, emerging scientific evidence has shown that one may be able to reverse some of the age-associated processes. Through this collaboration, we will adopt our AI-powered drug discovery suites together with Taisho’s validation platform to explore the new space of anti-aging solutions.”

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The former Fierce 15 winner said it will receive an upfront payment from Taisho as well as potential future milestone payments, though the amounts were not disclosed.

Insilico will be responsible for early target identification, aimed at the role senescence plays in specific cells, tissues and diseases, with different proteins implicated for each. Its AI will design molecules to tackle those targets, then Tokyo-based Taisho will step in to validate the computer-generated compounds through in vitro and in vivo testing.

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Insilico has long had a focus on aging. The company has worked to develop what it calls “deep aging clocks,” a set of biomarkers identified by neural networks that allow for a more refined picture of a person’s cellular age, compared to the simple number of their trips around the sun.

Some of this research helped form its spinout Deep Longevity, unveiled by Insilico this past summer. However, just weeks out of stealth mode, the new company was snapped up by Hong Kong-based investment firm Regent Pacific, which has maintained its own interests in aging research.

Meanwhile, earlier this year Taisho issued (PDF) a worldwide license for its inhibitor of hypoxia-inducible factor prolyl hydroxylase, or HIF-PH, to BioAge Labs. The phase 1 compound, known as TS-143 and BGE-117, is aimed at multiple age-related diseases, with the HIF pathway linked to longevity and overall health.

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