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  • Writer's pictureSarah Ruivivar

AstraZeneca and Absci Collaborate on AI-Driven Cancer Drug

Image credits: AstraZeneca / Handout

AstraZeneca, the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant, has joined forces with US-based Absci Corporation in a deal worth up to $247 million.

The partnership aims to develop an antibody to combat cancer, leveraging Absci's artificial intelligence (AI) technology for large-scale protein analysis.

This collaboration marks the latest in a series of agreements between large pharmaceutical companies and emerging AI businesses. These partnerships aim to create innovative disease treatments and reduce the costs associated with their development.

Absci, headquartered in Washington state with an AI research lab in New York, generates proprietary data by measuring millions of protein interactions. This data is then used to train its generative AI model, which ultimately designs and validates viable antibodies - proteins that target foreign substances within the body.

The specifics of the cancer type targeted by this collaboration remain undisclosed. However, the agreement aligns with AstraZeneca's ambitious plans to replace traditional chemotherapy with a new generation of targeted drugs.

Sean McClain, Absci's founder and CEO, believes that applying engineering principles to drug discovery enhances the potential for success and reduces development time. The deal includes an upfront fee for Absci, research and development funding, milestone payments, and royalties on any product sales.

Puja Sapra, a senior vice-president at AstraZeneca who leads biologics engineering research and development, described the collaboration as an "exciting opportunity" to utilise Absci's antibody creation AI.

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

This partnership exemplifies the growing trend of collaborations between leading pharmaceutical multinationals and smaller companies conducting cutting-edge research, particularly in the field of anti-tumour drugs.

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