Researchers and students from Queen Mary University of London’s Digital Environment Research Institute (DERI) came together with industry partners and experts from other universities to discuss artificial intelligence (AI)’s significant potential for drug discovery at the UKRI/BBSRC AI for Drug Discovery Summer Symposium, hosted by the Collaborative Training Partnership (CTP), led by Exscientia.
The symposium was the first of five symposia to be hosted by the AI for Drug Discovery CTP programme and created a space for promising researchers to share knowledge and expertise, as well as build connections with industry representatives and leading academics - all united by a mutual interest to find faster and smarter ways to discover new and better drugs.
In his keynote speech, Professor Andreas Bender of the University of Cambridge and PangeAI Botanica highlighted the current state of AI in drug discovery across both start-ups and big pharma. He also covered determining effectiveness and noted that drug discovery is essentially proof by example. In other words, validity through one or more examples or cases—rather than a full-fledged proof. He concluded that while AI is an important tool that we possess, real change will come when we can understand data better, as it is currently often a limiting factor in research.
Other presentations at the symposium were led by students on the training programme and showcased ongoing research projects including leveraging AI and genomics data for drug target prediction and using machine learning to help fight Alzheimer's Disease.
The UKRI/BBSRC AI for Drug Discovery CTP is a collaborative partnership, led by Exscientia in partnership with Queen Mary, Sosei Heptares, and MSD in recognition of the fact that realising AI’s potential in this area requires interdisciplinary researchers who have both a deep knowledge of bioscience and an understanding of advanced AI methodologies. The programme is designed jointly by industry-based researchers and academics from Queen Mary and aims to address a skills gap.
DERI was officially launched in 2022, and is the centre of digital, data science, and AI research at Queen Mary. It brings together experts from all three faculties at Queen Mary and delivers ground-breaking research to address major challenges facing society.
Dr Anna Lobley, Industrial Lead for the CTP, and Associate Director Biological Data Science at Exscientia, said: “The symposium was a valuable opportunity to share some of the exciting research happening in the AI for Drug Discovery programme and give people the chance to build new connections.
“AI is key to developing better medicines faster and is a hugely promising development within healthcare. It’s important to foster an environment where innovation can flourish, which includes bringing people together with different expertise and different ways of thinking.”
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