Iterative Scopes brings gastrointestinal disease AI to Janssen's IBD clinical trials

After chipping in to its last two venture funding rounds, Johnson & Johnson is taking an even bigger chance on Iterative Scopes.



The startup, which spun out of MIT in 2017, is developing artificial intelligence tools to both improve screenings for gastrointestinal diseases like colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and boost the entire clinical trial process, including accelerating patient recruitment and improving endpoint selection.



Now, J&J’s Janssen R&D division will tap those AI technologies, teaming up with Iterative Scopes to improve its own clinical trials for treatments of IBD.



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Through the partnership, Iterative Scopes will work with Janssen’s data science and immunology teams to apply its computer vision and other AI software to Janssen’s trials of treatments for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, the two main types of IBD and the focus of J&J’s gastroenterology pipeline.



Iterative Scopes’ software automatically analyzes images and videos collected during colonoscopies, making it easier for researchers to set a standard benchmark for their desired trial participants then quickly sift through submitted data to find eligible patients.



In the same vein, Iterative Scopes’ AI models of disease severity and progression allow researchers to pinpoint clearer, more accurate endpoints that they’ll be aiming for throughout a trial from the beginning, ensuring the trial’s results are actually meaningful signifiers of a drug’s ability to treat disease.



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Janssen’s IBD portfolio is led by Stelara, which has already been approved by the FDA for patients with moderate to severe Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, indications in which Janssen is still conducting late-stage, long-term studies.



It is also currently investigating the use of Tremfya—which has been approved only to treat plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis—for Crohn’s disease. Top-line results of an ongoing phase 2 study shared in November showed that after 48 weeks of use, 65% of Crohn’s patients using Tremfya achieved clinical remission.



In the meantime, while those studies continue, Janssen recently cut ties with another potential IBD drug. According to a December filing, it ended a $1 billion partnership with Theravance Biopharma after their co-developed JAK inhibitor izencitinib failed to outperform a placebo in treating ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s.



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Janssen’s partnership with Iterative Scopes builds on its parent company’s existing relationship with the startup. J&J Innovation joined the Massachusetts-based company’s back-to-back funding rounds last year, which brought in $30 million in August and then a supersized $150 million just a few months later in December.