Merck KGaA, the leading European science and technology company has collaborated with the French start-up company Iktos to use the later’s generative modelling artificial intelligence (AI) technology, in order to facilitate the rapid and cost-effective discovery and design of promising new compounds. Iktos is specialised in the development of artificial intelligence solutions applied to chemical research, more specifically medicinal chemistry and new drug design.
“This agreement is another illustration of how we aim to enrich our discovery engine with strategic technology-focused collaborations,” said Belén Garijo, Member of the Executive Board and CEO Healthcare, Merck. “Artificial intelligence is emerging as a pillar in the biopharmaceutical R&D model, giving us exponential opportunity to complement our existing expertise with further speed and better precision. For patients, this could mean faster access to novel treatment options.”
Iktos’ AI technology, which is based on deep generative models, helps bring speed and efficiency to the drug discovery process, by automatically designing virtual novel molecules that have desired activities for treating a given disease. This tackles one of the key challenges in drug design: rapid identification of molecules which simultaneously satisfy multiple drug-like criteria for clinical testing. The technology is already successfully established in other fields, such as image processing and automatic translation, but has only recently been applied to chemistry.
“We are thrilled that Merck is collaborating with Iktos to further accelerate its drug discovery capabilities,” commented Yann Gaston-Mathé, President and CEO of Iktos. “In a short space of time, our technology has successfully enabled huge progress and we are eager to apply the enormous possibilities it holds to help Merck with the successful design of new therapeutic options.”
Merck continues to leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence to drive transformative approaches. This follows the announcement, in December 2018, of a year-long licencing agreement with Cyclica Inc. for the use of its AI-augmented proteome screening platform, Ligand Express®. Merck also recently announced that it has been granted a U.S. Patent for a novel combination of AI and Blockchain Technology, aimed at providing a solution for the secure integration of physical products into the digital world.