Cancer Patients
Currently, one in two people in the UK will get cancer in their lifetime. Pixabay

Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has announced they will partner with US-based AI biologics firm, Absci, to design an antibody for cancer.

The collaboration aims to create a zero-shot generative AI model, which would work on creating new antibody therapeutics and enhancing the existing ones.

AstraZeneca is well-known for developing one of the prominent vaccines for COVID-19, first administered to the public in January 2021.

Now, the company appears to be turning its focus to cancer.

The Pharmaceutical giant will invest up to $247 million in research and development, milestone payments and an upfront fee for Absci.

Absci, a drug and target discovery company, has been harnessing the power of deep learning AI to develop new and existing disease treatments.

They claim its AI software screens "billions of cells" each week, going from antibodies to wet "lab-validated candidates" in six weeks.

The company generates proprietary data by measuring millions of interactions between proteins.

It then uses these to train its generative AI model and, eventually, design and validate viable antibodies - proteins that target foreign substances in the body.

Their CEO, Sean McClain, said AstraZeneca would "help to leverage its AI work".

"The application of engineering principles to drug discovery improved the potential of success and a reduction of the time spent in development," he added.

The agreement is part of AstraZeneca's ambitious plans to replace traditional chemotherapy with a new generation of targeted drugs.

In October, it announced the outcomes of clinical trials for new treatments for lung and breast cancers – results it hailed as a "massive achievement".

"AI is enabling us to not only increase the success and speed of our biologics discovery process but also enhance the diversity of the biologics we discover," senior vice president Aradhana Sarin said.

"We are applying AI throughout our discovery and development process, through building in-house capabilities and through collaborations such as with Absci."

The collaboration is the latest example of AI's potential use in the healthcare industry, where it could significantly accelerate both innovative research and the accuracy of data analysis.

In September, Moderna of the US agreed on a deal potentially worth more than $1.7 billion to develop cancer vaccines and therapies with Germany's Immatics. The German company uses so-called T-cell receptor technology to target cancer-associated proteins.

Earlier this year, a team of scientists at Rice University received $45 million in funding to develop sense-and-respond implant technology that has the potential to reduce cancer death rates by a staggering 50 per cent.

This revolutionary technology represents a significant leap forward in the battle against one of the world's leading causes of mortality as it will increase the effectiveness of immunotherapy for patients with difficult-to-treat tumors like those with ovarian and pancreatic cancers.

The NHS plans on using AI technology to quicken the time it takes doctors to diagnose lung cancer and treat it.

The UK government has given them £21 million for this project which will be spread across 64 NHS trusts in England.

This funding will give these trusts access to AI tools that can analyse CT scans and X-rays, ultimately improving efficiency, waiting times and patient outcomes.

Adding to this investment, on October 29, the Department of Health and Social Care along with the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology launched a new mission of using AI in life sciences to tackle the health challenges faced by Britain.

Through the AI Life Sciences Accelerator Mission, the UK government will invest £100 million in targeted areas where AI could be deployed to deliver breakthrough treatments for incurable diseases.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak underlined that his government is trying to capitalise on the UK's strength in secure health data and cutting-edge AI to address the healthcare challenges of this decade.

Last month, Sunak hosted the world's first 'AI Summit' at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, where world leaders and tech specialists gathered to discuss the benefits and dangers AI poses.

The conference concluded with the signature of the Bletchley Declaration – the agreement of countries including the UK, United States and China on the "need for international action to understand and collectively manage potential risks through a new joint global effort to ensure AI is developed and deployed in a safe, responsible way for the benefit of the global community".