The emergence of Artificial Intelligence [AI] within the past few years has garnered either optimism, skepticism, or fear as we see an increase in adoption, from everyday smart products to large-scale innovation. Often acknowledged as a game-changing technology, AI offers untapped potential in improving established ways of doing business, as well as with new opportunities in meeting and addressing critical pain points across many industries, including banking, manufacturing and healthcare.
Berg CEO Dr. Niven Narain
The pharmaceutical industry is also embracing the trendy technology for its abilities in effectively advancing and/or addressing the ever-changing drug or therapeutic needs from those who suffer from everyday viruses to complex diseases, like pancreatic cancer or Alzheimer’s. As we see new renditions of once-eradicated viruses or destructive diseases like polio, traditional R&D efforts can be ineffective and expensive, often taking between 11 – 15 years and with costs upwards of $2.6 billion.
AI-powered drug discovery efforts are enabling big pharma and biotechnology companies to streamline R&D efforts, including calculating vast patient datasets into digestible, tangible information, identifying personalized / precision medicine opportunities or forecasting potential responses to new drugs. With a well-developed AI platform, precision medicine is creating and executing a new promise to cut drug costs and development time significantly.
AI meets patient biology
Dr. Niven R. Narain, Co-founder, CEO and President of Berg LLC, is deeply involved with “fast-tracking” potential drugs or therapeutics to clinical trials to improve outcomes and save patient lives. Berg has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to date to establish an R&D Center focused on developing a next-gen technology platform and future drug pipeline, in addition to working with partners across industry, government and academia to tackle some of the toughest unmet needs in medicine.
At its core, Berg is focused on a patient-first approach to drug development, using AI to merge biology and technology to map the future of disease and, thereby, transform the future of healthcare by creating more precision and predictability in the process of advancing drugs to the market. Through artificial intelligence, Berg’s approach eliminates uncertainty and positions the right healthcare treatment to the right patient at the right time.
How it works
With its focus on understanding and leveraging patients’ biology, Berg is adamant about taking samples from people with and without a particular disease and at different stages of disease progression. This extensive dataset, which contains a patient’s tissue samples, organ fluids and bloodwork, is further extracted into genomics, proteomics, metabolomics and lipidomics, among others, to provide a wide-range of opportunity for target identification.
Berg’s supercomputers, backed by AI and Machine Learning [ML], synthesize more than 14 trillion data points per tissue sample in just days, as it searches for any differences between non-disease and disease states and proteins and other biological features mentioned above, which can likely impact a disease state. Its software takes said proteins or other biological features like metabolites as potential target candidates or biomarkers. The post AI algorithms then allow for insights into what is known about the biology and overlays the output onto databases that query what is known publicly such as patents, publications, correlations to chemical libraries, and relevance to clinical trials or approved drugs. This application paves the way for a precision-medicine approach, as patients are triaged in an in silico manner before taking a potential drug or entering a clinical trial to determine its effectiveness to treat the disease.
Targeting aggressive cancers
At the heart of Berg’s technology is biological compound BPM 31510, which is one of the first drugs in the world guided by AI to target and shrink cancer cells. It is currently being advanced to Phase 2/3 trials for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer and Phase 2 trials for an advanced form of brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), which are both extremely aggressive and difficult to treat. Phase 1 trials do not usually indicate much about a drug’s potential, but BPM 31510’s phase 1 trial proved to show the ability of Berg’s software to predict roughly 20% of patients, who were likely to respond to it, as well as those who were more likely to experience adverse reactions. The AI platform is being used to develop the most efficient and patient-centric next phase of clinical trials.
“As we continue to work towards validating BPM 31510 in late stage trials, it is still early days for AI’s full potential in the larger pharma industry, including enhancing drug discovery,” Berg’s Narain stated. “We are seeing big pharma players, including some of our key partners like AstraZeneca and Sanofi Pasteur, not only engage in conversations about AI effectiveness, but we are seeing action. All pharma players share the same goal of saving patient lives, and AI technology is already playing a role in making good on this shared mission.”