A March of “Big Tech” Corporations Into Pharmaceutical Industry

by Andrii Buvailo 

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In November 2021, the parent company of Google, Alphabet, Inc., announced the launch of a new commercial subsidiary in the biomedical space -- Isomorphic Labs. Demis Hassabis, co-founder and CEO of DeepMind, will serve also as a temporary CEO of the newly formed company to ensure close collaboration between the two organizations, and the creation of a strong development strategy. 

As Hassabis wrote in his blog post, the name of the company “isomorphic” reflects his belief that biological systems and information science can, in principle, be sharing some common underlying structure -- a situation described by mathematicians as an isomorphic mapping between two systems or sets of data. 

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, an isomorphism preserves some structural aspect of a set or mathematical group, so it is often used to map a complicated set (in our case -- biology) onto a simpler or better-known set (information models) in order to establish the original set’s properties. 

Unsurprisingly, the news about the launch of Isomorphic Labs immediately generated a “tsunami” in the media space, as with most announcements from Alphabet/Google. It yet remains to be seen how Isomorphic Labs is going to contribute to the industry as they have not announced much since the foundation. But it brings us to a discussion of a more general trend in the pharmaceutical space -- it gets crowded with traditionally “non-pharmaceutical” technology corporations, like Google. 

How tech giants are slowly eating (bio)pharmaceutical market

Alphabet has a rich track record of activity in the life sciences space and healthcare tech, so the launch of Isomorphic Labs is not a surprise, but an anticipated continuation of their expansion strategy. 

Perhaps, the most widely publicized (and deservedly so) achievement of Alphabet’s group in the life sciences is a recent DeepMind breakthrough where their artificial intelligence-based engine AlfaFold learned to predict with high accuracy protein structures using just the primary protein sequence -- a string of amino acids. Not only did DeepMind open a brave new world of opportunities for target discovery and drug design, but it brought us a step closer to building comprehensive digital models of biological systems. 

However, DeepMind’s efforts in basic biology research are just a small part of what Alphabet’s group is doing in the Life Sciences. According to a recent report “Landscape of Advanced Technology Companies in Pharmaceutical Industry”, published by UK-based analytical agency Deep Pharma Intelligence, Alphabet developed a portfolio of Life Science and healthcare projects -- via direct investments, R&D collaborations, or via formation of its own subsidiaries -- focusing on activities as diverse as small molecule drug discovery, pre-clinical and clinical research, AI-driven healthcare and diagnostics, immunotherapy, and vaccine development, and many other directions. 

Source: Deep Pharma Intelligence 

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