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Biopharma Insights


Toronto AI Startups Aim High in Drug Discovery Space

   by Andrii Buvailo    1863
Toronto AI Startups Aim High in Drug Discovery Space

According to a report by the Advisory Council on Artificial Intelligence of Canada, this country is home to more than eight hundred artificial intelligence (AI) companies, and the number of AI startups is growing by about 28% each year.

This is due to quite favorable conditions, that Canada offers to local and foreign AI-focused talent and organizations. Not only the country is a strong global leader in artificial intelligence research, with some of the most cited academics working here (Yoshua Bengio and Geoffrey Hinton -- pioneers of modern AI), but also the government is quite active in pushing Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, aiming at supporting AI research and talent attraction and retention in Canada.

Antibiotic Research and Development - Public vs. Private Funding

   by David Shlaes    487
Antibiotic Research and Development - Public vs. Private Funding

Over the past decade, pull incentives as a solution to the broken antibiotic market have been proposed to entice companies into antibiotic research and development.  These incentives would essentially provide a market, and therefore a return on investment for pharmaceutical companies. Almost all of today’s inadequate antibiotic pipeline is provided by biotech and small pharma.  All are threatened with loss of investor interest because of the failed marketplace and many are experiencing difficulty in raising funds either from public or private markets.  One alternative to providing money to the “evil” pharmaceutical industry via a substantial pull incentive is to create publicly funded non-profit organizations or public-private ventures that would essentially replace the industry in antibiotic research, development and commercialization. Two proponents of this approach are Lord Jim O’Neill (of the O’Neill Commission or Antimicrobial Resistance Review fame) and Ramanan Laxminarayan of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy and of GARDP. Both, clearly, are key thought leaders in the area. 

Big Investments for Human Microbiome Research

   by Tim Sandle    2375
Big Investments for Human Microbiome Research

Major companies on the scene include Second Genome, Enterome, and EpiBiome. In addition, several new startups have entered the field. Amongst the most active investors, Global Engage reports, are Seventure Partners, Flagship Pioneering and BioGaia. In fact there are some 120 companies investing in analyzing data relating to the human microbiome. To take one example, companies such as uBiome are developing genomic tests meant to identify and diagnose harmful microbes in the body.

Assessing Productivity of Pharmaceutical AI: Any Results Beyond Hype?

   by Andrii Buvailo    2560
Assessing Productivity of Pharmaceutical AI: Any Results Beyond Hype?

A background context -- opportunities and challenges

Current widespread interest towards artificial intelligence (AI) and its numerous research and commercial successes was largely catalyzed by several landmark breakthroughs in 2012, when researchers at the University of Toronto achieved unprecedented improvement in the image classification challenge ImageNet, using their deep neural network “AlexNet” running on graphics processing units (GPUs), and when that same year Google’s deep neural network managed to identify a cat from millions of unlabeled Youtube videos, representing a conceptual step in unsupervised machine learning.

Will 2019 Bring Positive Signals for the Declining Antibiotics R&D Market?

   by David Shlaes    985
Will 2019 Bring Positive Signals for the Declining Antibiotics R&D Market?

Antibiotic R&D has had a particularly bad year starting with The Medicines Company who abandoned their antibiotic R&D efforts and sold their antibiotic assets to Melinta late last year right after getting approval for vabomere. This year both Sanofi and Novartis abandoned their antibiotic R&D efforts and divested their clinical and preclinical assets. Allergan, holder of the North American rights to ceftaroline, dalbavancin and ceftazidime-avibactam, also announced that they would divest their antibiotic assets. I have not heard that they were successful. Achaogen has now undergone two efforts at “restructuring” involving virtually eliminating all R&D and has essentially put up the “for sale” sign just after achieving approval for plazomicin. Finally, Melinta abandoned their antibiotic R&D efforts in the face of miserable sales of their recently launched antibiotics including delafloxacin and vabomere.