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Equinox Pharma brings artificial intelligence to drug discovery

Copyright: iStock

Spinout company Equinox Pharma provides a technology service to the pharma and biopharma industries that helps in the development of new drugs. It follows a logic-based, machine-learning approach that trains computers to learn from a set of biologically-active molecules, combining knowledge of traditional drug discovery methods and computer-based analyses.

Established by three researchers in 2008, the company arose from BBSRC-funded bioinformatics and structural biology research at Imperial College London. A three-year BBSRC grant in 2003 funded the initial work, and BBSRC Follow-on Funding was provided in 2006.

The researchers used this to develop a unique machine-learning method known as SVILP (Support Vector Inductive Logic Programming) (PDF) and filed patents, granted in Japan and the US, which remain pending in Europe. In turn, this led to development of the company’s proprietary software for drug discovery, called INDDex (Investigational Novel Drug Discovery by Example). Further assessment work was then undertaken by a chemoinformatics PhD student supported by a BBSRC CASE studentship between Equinox and Imperial College London.

Data breakout

£250,000 Investment made by Imperial Innovations, part of Imperial College London, and technology commercialisation company NetScientific to develop the business
40 million Number of potential molecules that can be screened in a few hours using Equinox Pharma technology
50% Prediction rate for new molecules, compared to 15% for other technologies

The software can screen tens of millions of potential molecules in only a few hours, and is more accurate than other software-based approaches to identifying promising leads for drug discovery, thus saving time and money.

“We’ve proved the technology with commercial and academic partners and our next project will be to apply INDDEx to search for novel antibiotics, which will address one of the global challenges in healthcare,” says Professor Mike Sternberg from Imperial College.

Equinox customers include major pharmaceutical companies such as Japanese pharmaceutical company Astellas, agro-chemical companies such as Syngenta, as well as SMEs based in the UK, Europe, Japan and the US. The company is also using their software in-house to develop new antibiotics, and to investigate inhibitors of SIRT2 – a potential target for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

Read the full impact evidence report: