JPM 2022: Fosun Pharma invests in Insilico Medicine for its AI drug discovery programs

Shanghai skyline
Fosun Pharma tapped Insilico's AI for work on four disease targets, and also signed on to co-develop Insilico's QPCTL program aimed at a checkpoint protein in immuno-oncology. (Freeman Zhou / Unsplash)

Artificial-intelligence-powered molecule designer Insilico Medicine has collected another international drug discovery partnership, with the Shanghai-based Fosun Pharma signing on for work on four disease targets.

The collaboration includes an upfront $13 million payment to kick off the company’s R&D projects plus an equity investment in Insilico of an undisclosed amount, according to an announcement during the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference.

In addition to the four targets, Fosun will also assist in co-developing Insilico’s QPCTL program, aimed at a checkpoint protein in immuno-oncology. Insilico will work to deliver a preclinical candidate and prepare it for human studies, while Fosun Pharma will conduct clinical trials and develop the drug globally. The two companies have also agreed to milestone-based payments and to share commercial profits.

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Over the course of 2021, Insilico demonstrated that using its AI programs, it could uncover a novel target and then identify a potential new drug for pulmonary fibrosis in a total of 18 months, and at a total cost of about $2.6 million.

About nine months later, the company announced it had taken that drug into its first trial in humans, with healthy volunteers in an Australian study receiving limited, intravenous doses of ISM001-055, a small molecule inhibitor aimed at the chronic lung disease.

Insilico has said the compound has shown preliminary results in activating the myofibroblast cells essential for repairing damaged tissues. It also noted that the drug’s target could be potentially applied to other fibrotic diseases such as in the kidneys or liver.

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Previously, Insilico inked research projects with Boehringer Ingelheim, Huadong Medicine and others. 

The deal with Boehringer Ingelheim spans areas such as heart failure, tropical diseases, cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy and includes a special focus on connecting with scientific talent in Asia, with Insilico being largely based out of Hong Kong and has offices around the globe.

The alliance with the Chinese pharma Huadong, meanwhile, focuses on disease targets previously considered undruggable. Huadong will provide its drug discovery and screening characterization platform, while Insilico's machine learning platform will aim to identify small molecules that may increase the chances of succeeding against hard-to-hit cancer targets.