AI and Big Data optimize the search for new molecules

1 April 2022

The added value of AI in the R&D of molecules, the recruitment of patients for clinical trials, and the analysis of the data obtained is undeniable. But its involvement and the use of health data raise ethical questions about the protection of patient data.

This is a major challenge that Owkin has taken on. A Franco-American start-up co-founded by Dr. Clozel, a physician and clinical researcher, and Dr. Wainrib, a leader in AI applied to biology, Owkin is specialized in artificial intelligence and precision medicine. Its success is based on its mastery of federated learning, a recent learning technique of critical importance to industries whose data cannot be centralized for exploitation. This is a major constraint for players in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries since patient data is kept in the hospital and is never shared for confidentiality reasons.

Federated learning

Unlike machine learning, where the algorithm integrates the data to analyze it, in federated learning, the algorithm processes the data on the servers where it is stored, thus respecting data protection regulations. With the major hurdle removed, the software establishes a link to share and deepen knowledge between major cancer centers, researchers and renowned hospitals in Europe and the United States. These include Gustave Roussy, Institut Curie, AP-HP in the Paris region and the Léon Bérard Center in Lyon, France. Specialized in oncology, the latter has had computerized patient records since the early 1990s. Today, its database contains information on more than 300,000 patients who have undergone treatment at the center. This is important data on rare cancers such as sarcoma, which represents an immense potential for cancer research. However, as a security measure, all of this sensitive data was “pseudonymized” before being used in the research projects.

Big pharma Sanofi has understood the importance of AI in the search for new treatments. Last November, the company announced a $180 million investment in Owkin. With the implementation of this strategic

collaboration, it intends to optimize clinical trials and develop its portfolio of treatments on four types of cancers to meet patients’ needs. In parallel, Owkin will be able to continue its development and build the largest database of cancer genomics data from major cancer institutes.

PACT, the collaborative initiative between Pfizer and Amazon Web Services

Computing, storage, databases, machine learning, analysis and artificial intelligence, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a cloud offering that for 15 years has never stopped expanding its services and application areas. Today, this strength allows it to collaborate with Pfizer through the Pfizer Amazon Collaboration Team (PACT) initiative to create innovative solutions and improve the development, production and distribution of drugs for clinical trials. Announced in December 2021, the partnership will enable AWS to apply its capabilities to Pfizer’s business, including clinical manufacturing and clinical trial supply chain. Specifically, a prototype solution will be developed by Pfizer and various AWS services. All data from production tools will be processed to instantly detect anomalies, predict maintenance needs and consequently reduce equipment downtime. PACT also envisions collaboration between Pfizer scientists and life science professionals at Amazon Web Services to extract and leverage data from multiple drug development processes using analytics and machine learning. Valuable information that could provide new insights into the development of new products or simply repurposing existing drugs.