Since the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020, academicians, researchers, and life sciences industry leaders are joining hands to accelerate drug discovery and make India more self-sufficient. By leveraging advanced technologies like AI, VR, and 3D simulation to speed up the discovery and development of new drugs, it is possible to:
- Reduce external dependence for COVID-19 treatments and strengthen local supply chains
- Build a community of researchers with skills in data analysis and management
- Position India as a global leader in life sciences and pharmaceutical innovation
To unlock this opportunity, the Indian government has taken several concrete steps. A new research & development policy is on the anvil, which would aid drug discovery and medical devices manufacturing. The government is eager to invest INR 1,000 crore in three major manufacturing parks for basic raw materials, active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) and medical devices.
Further, to nurture the sophisticated skills required in this field, key government agencies are partnering with life sciences leaders, including our team at Dassault Systèmes India, to launch the Drug Discovery Hackathon 2020.
“We are extremely delighted to have Dassault Systèmes as our esteemed partner for our Drug Discovery Hackathon 2020. Dassault Systemes’ BIOVIA packages like Modeler, Topkat and CHARMm are hugely popular in the global drug discovery community and availability of these packages for the participants will certainly help in expediting our efforts in identifying lead molecules against COVID-19,” says Dr. Abhay Jere, Chief Innovation Officer, Innovation Cell – Ministry of HRD, Govt. of India.
Providing a Platform for India’s Life Sciences Disruptors
India boasts of a massive talent pool in life sciences, which could help cement India’s positioning as a global leader if empowered properly. There are currently over 15 lakh students & faculty in 3,000+ institutions across India, not to mention experts from research organizations, startups, and established majors. All of these stakeholders need a platform to gain from Open Innovation, replacing the complex, siloed model of drug discovery, approval, and development.
Traditional approaches are riddled with bottlenecks — for instance, it takes an average of 5 years and the synthesis of 3000-6000 molecules to find one viable lead candidate for laboratory testing. Drug Discovery Hackathon 2020 aims to speed up this process via collaboration, collective intelligence, and technology empowerment.
The Hackathon will break into two major tracks — one dealing with drug design for anti-COVID-19 lead molecule generation using existing tools (molecular modeling, pharmacophore optimization, molecular, etc.) and the other for developing new tools and algorithms. We are among the key industry partners on this initiative, drawing from our rich experience as an innovation catalyst in the life sciences sector.
How Technology can be a Lever for Faster Drug Discovery
Given the current urgency, the industry needs to replace age-old drug development pipelines with a more streamlined solution. BIOVIA, powered by our 3DEXPERIENCE Platform, introduces the power advanced digital technology to the drug discovery value chain through:
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) to fast-track the innovation cycle – Advanced generative therapeutics design can combine virtual and real (V+R) lead optimization, where new molecules are designed virtually through AI-based active learning. These virtual lead candidates are automatically advanced to the lab, continually optimizing the design.
- Commercial-grade graphics visualization – An interactive 3D visualization for molecular structures can help researchers perform deeper analysis and communicate research outcomes more effectively. This is a key element in Open Innovation, where a complex task is divided into simpler assignments for community participation. 3D visualization lets stakeholders share findings with each other quickly and without any loss of information.
- Human and lab in the loop – Finding successful treatments requires the efficiency of AI and the unique insights of human experts in equal measures. That’s why human and lab in-the-loop AI would couple unbiased machine learning methods with real-world experimentation, maximizing the potential of India’s enormous talent pool. Ongoing testing and experimentation would provide additional training data to predictive life sciences analysis models — we call this augmented intelligence.
As a Drug Discovery Hackathon 2020 partner, we are offering access to the BIOVIA Discovery Studio to empower drug discovery with an industry-leading molecular graphics environment. We will also provide video training and demonstrations on in-silico drug discovery using machine learning algorithms to participants and researchers of the hackathon.
“Dassault Systèmes has a very long history of working with AI in drug discovery platforms, dating back to the 1970s. AI will change the way pharmaceutical companies operate today and the way drugs are discovered, by allowing researchers to analyze huge volumes of data. With AI, the possibility of combining regenerative medicine with pharmacology and gene therapy emerges,” says Dr. Anand Krishnamurthy, Senior Manager, Industry Process Consultant, BIOVIA, Dassault Systèmes.
Towards New Vistas in 2020-2021
The hackathon is scheduled for the next 12 months, breaking down the drug discovery process into core, manageable phases for accelerated completion. Participants would win rewards and recognitions, and the potential SARS-CoV-2 ‘hit/lead’ compounds identified may be tested in the lab and taken further for clinical development.
We are glad to offer knowledge and technology support on this important journey, helping India’s life sciences community gain from AI, collaborative (non-siloed) research, and advanced 3D visualization. We look forward to a rich and fruitful partnership with the Drug Discovery Hackathon, eventually unraveling a mine of possibilities in life sciences, and towards addressing the challenge at hand.