Pharmaceutical company Lantern Pharma, known for its work in precision oncology using artificial intelligence (AI), has joined Genomics England’s drug discovery alliance.

The partnership, dubbed 100,000 Genomes Project, is one of the most advanced genome-mapping projects in the world, as well as the largest. It was initiated in 2013 with the aim of kickstarting the UK’s genomics industry through sequencing 100,000 whole genomes from 70,000 NHS patients with rare diseases, as well as patients with common cancers. The project is now looking to expand its commercial partnerships and explore new technologies to aid drug discovery.

Lantern is contributing to cancer drug development through its Response Algorithm for Drug Rescue and Positioning (RADR) platform, tailoring multiple cancer drug programmes to the right patients. The platform identifies drug-specific complex genetic signatures to identify potential responders, allowing for more focused precision clinical trials. The use of AI alongside existing and new data brings pharmaceuticals closer to the coveted yet elusive goal of right patient stratification. Its approach could improve the success rates of drugs, lower developmental costs and save time compared to the traditional drug development processes.

“By partnering with industry from the outset, our aim is to maximise the potential for patient benefit through whole genome sequencing.” Genomics England’s CCO Professor Joanne Hackett said.

“We’re delighted that Lantern Pharma have joined the Discovery Forum – as their expertise will ultimately help turn research findings into treatments, diagnostics and benefits for patients as soon as possible.”

Lantern plans to use AI to get some of its previously shelved products ready for market. One example is its prostate and ovarian cancer treatment irofulven, which was developed by MGI and Eisai before being abandoned. Irofulven and several of Lantern’s other assets have received fast track from in-license to out-license within 18 months, in a deal worth up to $21 million. Currently Lantern is using its RADR platform to progress three clinical-stage drugs, with hopes of developing over 10 precision oncology treatments over the next two years.

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Genomics England says the Genomes Project’s Discovery Forum, a platform for industry partners, academia, the NHS, and the wider genomics community, will translate groundbreaking research into innovative treatments as quickly as possible. The 40 companies involved include pharmaceutical firms AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, UCB and Spark Therapeutics, genomics testing specialists Qiagen and Guardant Health, and drug discovery platforms Verge Genomics and BC Platforms.