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18 June, 2020 - 15:09 By Tony Quested

Cambridge AI firm says drug identified in April could have saved 5,000 lives

Dr David Cleevely

AI VIVO, the Cambridge company combining systems pharmacology and AI to accelerate drug discovery, reveals that its platform correctly identified dexamethasone as having high potential for the treatment of COVID-19 as early as April. 

Had it been adopted earlier in the pandemic it could have saved up to 5,000 lives, the company says. Now it is set to reveal other drugs it believes could help kill coronavirus.

It says this demonstrates the ability of the platform to systematically and correctly identify candidates with the highest chance of therapeutic success.

The low-dose steroid treatment dexamethasone has been part of the world’s biggest trial testing existing therapeutics that could be repurposed to help treat COVID-19.

The drug, which is inexpensive and widely available, was shown to save the lives of seriously ill patients at a late stage of coronavirus. This is being viewed globally as a major breakthrough in the fight against the deadly virus.

On April 16, AI VIVO publicly named dexamethasone, along with four other drugs, as compounds most likely to be effective in treating COVID-19. It is believed that had dexamethasone been used to treat patients in the UK from the start of the pandemic, up to 5,000 lives could have been saved.

To identify the candidate drugs most likely to be effective in treating the disease, AI VIVO used samples from COVID-19 infected cells to build its model for the disease, which was then used to rank thousands of compounds. 

The AI VIVO prediction engine, which is powered by AI, took just 15 days to rank 90,000 compound models in order of efficacy and identified a shortlist of top candidate drugs in April.

AI VIVO’s ranking system is based on its unique phenotypic drug discovery methodology and does not rely on any prior knowledge or known information related to the disease or compounds. 

The company’s April announcement was the first output of the prediction engine and was followed by a wider list of 41 top-ranked candidates on May 7 that are currently in clinical trials for COVID-19. AI VIVO is tracking the clinical trials outcomes for these.

Dr Peyman Gifani, AI VIVO founder and CEO, said: “This is another great validation of AI VIVO’s phenotypic approach to modelling diseases and the effects of drugs. 

“We also believe there are combinations of other top-ranked drugs that with Dexamethasone will be more effective than any single drug, and we are keen to share these combinations with pharma companies and clinical trial investigators to support the fight against COVID-19. 

“We are expanding our interactions with government agencies and pharmaceutical companies to consider the top ranked drugs which have not yet been selected for trials, but have the potential to make a real difference in the fight against COVID-19.” 

Dr David Cleevely, lead investor in AI VIVO, added: “We are pleased to see that AI VIVO has once again been shown to have identified a breakthrough anti COVID-19 drug demonstrated to save lives around the world. 

“This shows the unique capability of AI VIVO’s disruptive technology and the wider applications of this approach for other disease areas.”

AI VIVO has been in contact with various clinical trial investigators including the UK’s ACCORD programme to provide insights for selecting the best drug combinations systematically. 

The advanced technology business now plans to release the names of other generic top ranked drugs that are not currently in clinical trials in order to help the fight against COVID-19. The list will be available on the AI VIVO website. 

AI VIVO has not disclosed a number of proprietary top ranked compound candidates currently in phase II or phase III clinical trials for other indications. 

It is contacting pharma companies who have developed these compounds to provide more information on why the compounds are top-ranked and how they might be used as single drugs and in combinations.

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