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AI: a game changer in Pharma

A chip from Quris’ AI technology. These chips are mimicking a patient physiology, they are dubbed “patient-on-a-chip”, and can be used to test the effect, and side effects, of drugs on that patient. Image credit: Quris

Quris is an Israeli company (it is also based in Boston, US) betting that Artificial Intelligence can help to dramatically shorten the time to move drugs to clinical stage.

Most drugs fail the clinical trials (up to 89% fail, according to Quris): if we think that the overall cost is in the order of trillion $ over a decade (that is the average period of testing for new drugs) the promise to focus on the most promising ones is obvious. More than that. The shortening of clinical trials would make effective drugs available sooner with obvious benefit to all of us.

Quris AI is using “patient-on-chip” technology (basically bio-chips using fluidics to assess the reactions of several organs to a given drug – watch the clip for the latest research in this area, called body-on-a-chip). The organs are created on the chip using stem cells evolved to mimic the different types of cells in various organs. Tiny pipes connect the various organs on the chip circulating both the drug and the metabolite produced by the different cells as response to the drug.

The effect of the drug on the various cells is monitored by sensors on the chip that provide the data used by Quris AI for the analyses. The flow of data contributes to a continuous machine learning which is ultimately providing the assessment of the effect of the drug. The data are also analysed with respect to a genomic diversity of DNA data specific to different ethnic groups. Additionally, the machine learning makes use of the growing literature in genomic, drugs and illnesses.

Interestingly, the first Quris focus has been, still is, on the Fragile-X Syndrome, associated to inherited autisms and intellectual disabilities, a 200M$ market worldwide. This is very significant, since it shows the potential of this approach to address pathologies that are almost impossibile to tackle using the the classical approach given the relatively low number of cases.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.