The entire process of developing a drug from preclinical research to marketing can take 12–18 years and often costs between $2.0–3.0B, while only about 10% of candidates successfully complete clinical trials and gain regulatory approval. Pharmaceutical companies are continuously looking for new ways to improve efficiency and reduce costs of R&D and one promising area is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).  These technologies have the potential to transform drug discovery, by rapidly accelerating the R&D timeline, making drug development cheaper and more efficient. One company looking to harness this technology is Lodo Therapeutics.

Lodo Therapeutics’ proprietary drug discovery P4 Platform uses AI / ML, genomics, and computational biology to increase the speed and efficiency of the drug discovery process by identifying early leads and eradicating less promising compounds earlier. In addition, the company aims to harness naturally occurring products from microbial DNA found in soil by accessing the data encoded in biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs) in microbial DNA. This would allow Lodo to target billions of years of evolution-driven chemical diversity and biological relevance to identify novel drugs for hard-to-treat disease targets. This provides access to a much wider field of potential drugs, that Lodo claims is “the largest source of molecularly diverse, drug-like molecules that has ever been available to researchers.” Lodo also uses synthetic biology to boost production and enhance candidate molecules’ pharmacologic properties, including their ability to engage challenging targets.

In 2018, Lodo announced that it has formed a strategic drug discovery collaboration with leading pharma company Genentech. Under the terms of the agreement, Genentech will utilise Lodo Therapeutics’ platform to identify novel molecules with therapeutic potential against multiple disease-related targets. Lodo is eligible to receive funding based on achievement of certain predetermined research, development, and commercialisation milestones. Lodo also received an undisclosed upfront payment and is eligible to receive royalties on sales of certain products resulting from the collaboration. In April and October 2020, Lodo announced that it had reached preclinical milestones of the collaboration, supporting the utility of its platform. There has been increased interest in natural drug discovery in recent years, with other companies such as Warp Drive Bio and Adapsyn having entered into agreements with large pharma companies such as Pfizer, Roche, Sanofi, and GlaxoSmithKline.

This collaboration also represents another growing trend within the pharma industry, with many leading players partnering with smaller vendors for their expertise in AI and ML for drug discovery. GlobalData analysis shows that almost 100 partnerships have been forged between AI vendors and Big Pharma companies since 2015, with increasing numbers witnessed in recent years. There were four partnerships for AI-based drug discovery seen in 2015 but in 2020, 27 partnerships were identified, an increase of 575%.

The convergence of technologies used in Lodo Therapeutics platform has the potential to achieve major successes in improving the scalability and efficiency of the drug discovery process. This is particularly important today as pharma companies are under increasing pressures with rising R&D costs eroding profits. Lodo’s progress highlights that these are exciting times in pharma, with significant transformation expected as emerging technology present myriad opportunities across the industry.