Insilico Medicine, an AI-driven biotech company based in Hong Kong and New York City, has announced the initiation of Phase I clinical trials for its groundbreaking AI-designed COVID-19 drug. Unlike vaccines, this oral therapeutic aims to treat COVID-19 symptoms directly. If approved, it could revolutionize the fight against the virus, becoming the first-ever alternative to Paxlovid, the only existing COVID-19 medication.
Power of generative AI
Insilico Medicine’s CEO, Alex Zhavoronkov, Ph.D., emphasized the transformative power of generative AI in various fields, including drug development. The company’s newly unveiled molecule, ISM3312, has demonstrated exceptional effectiveness against COVID-19 variants, even those resistant to Paxlovid, while offering improved stability and prolonged efficacy.
Paxlovid has been linked to undesirable side effects, including “Paxlovid rebound,” where patients who initially test negative for COVID-19 later test positive again, and “Paxlovid mouth,” causing an unpleasant taste. Furthermore, as the virus mutates, drug-resistant strains have emerged, limiting the effectiveness of existing treatments.
The Development Process
Insilico Medicine’s drug development process involved utilizing their target discovery platform, PandaOmics, to identify the coronavirus’s target protein. Subsequently, they employed their in-house generative chemistry platform, Chemistry42, to generate novel molecules capable of attacking this protein, thereby treating COVID-19 and other coronaviruses.
ISM3312, identified in February 2020, has since undergone patent application and is proven effective against multiple coronavirus strains and other related diseases, such as SARS and MERS.
One of the notable advantages of this AI-generated drug is its ease of large-scale production. Zhavoronkov highlighted that it only requires a two-step process with readily available starting materials.
Safety and Tolerability
Currently, ISM3312 is undergoing a Phase I clinical study to assess its safety and tolerability in healthy volunteers. The compound is also being evaluated against the EG.5 COVID variant. Results from these trials are expected to be released by the end of 2023, guiding decisions on further testing in coronavirus-infected patients.
Insilico Medicine’s research team believes this drug exemplifies how AI expedites the discovery of more effective COVID-19 treatments. Zhavoronkov stressed the ongoing importance of addressing COVID-19 and the potential for AI to swiftly identify solutions to combat mutating virus strains and prevent future pandemics.
Important to Stay Updated
While ISM3312 represents a significant advancement in the fight against COVID-19, Dr. Harvey Castro, a Dallas-based board-certified emergency medicine physician and AI in healthcare expert, cautioned healthcare providers to stay updated on clinical trials and research data before prescribing the new drug. For patients, ISM3312 offers hope, but Castro emphasized the need for personalized medical advice and stay informed about the latest research and clinical trial outcomes.
Castro further noted, “While this new drug offers a promising alternative to treating the virus, more extensive clinical trials and global regulatory approvals are needed to confirm its efficacy and safety.” The journey towards AI-transformed healthcare continues, promising innovative solutions to combat the evolving challenges posed by COVID-19 and future health crises.