AstraZeneca and BenevolentAI May Have Found a New CKD Treatment Using AI

As reported in Biospace, a collaboration between biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and BenevolentAI has for the first time used AI to identify a molecule that plays a key role chronic kidney disease. The disorder is increasingly common, often triggered by other conditions such as diabetes. However due to the condition’s extremely complex nature, it lacks an effective treatment option. The community is desperate for progress.
This week, the two companies brought together the latest AI and the most in-depth data available to illuminate a key buried in the complex molecular make up of patients with CKD. Doctors and patients are extremely excited— speculating this could guide the way to a novel CKD medicine. AstraZeneca and Benevolent AI surmise this is only the start.

Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease is the name for continual damage to the kidneys. Over time, this progressively impairs their ability to cleanse the body of waste and toxins, causing a build-up of fluids, waste, and electrolytes. This eventually disrupts other body processes, resulting in jaundice, vitamin deficiencies, stunted growth, an enlarged liver, nausea, fatigue, weakness, cramps and muscle twitching, swelling in the feet and ankles, itchiness, shortness of breathe, changes in bathroom habits, high blood pressure, and liver disease.
CKD is typically the result of another disease that’s impacting the kidney’s functions, often only occurring slowly and over time. These primary conditions include high blood pressure, type 1 or 2 diabetes, polycystic kidney disease, glomerulonephritis, and interstitial nephritis.

Complex Condition, Complex Solution

In the past, scientists have struggled to treat the condition due to its complexity. A disease is complex when it develops due to a host of environmental factors and genetic cues.
The companies recognized that a complex issue needed a complex solution. While medicines that are repurposed from other diseases can function, a specifically tailored medicine tends to be a much more effective solution if possible. They recognized that CKD’s complexity resulted in insufficient medical solutions. They needed technology to dig deeper into the building blocks of the disease and search for a common thread.

AI Seeks Solutions

The two companies recognized the potential of their combined research and technical experience, with the biomedical tools and algorithms of BenevolentAI complementing the rich research and scientific insight and expertise of those at AstraZeneca. The collaboration, beginning in 2019, sought to find novel disease mechanism’s and specific molecular targets in order to develop medicines for CKD and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).
They developed The Benevolent Platform®, an AI platform which can use algorithms to comb through the great mass of available research to search for larger trends. The Chief Scientific Officer of BenevolentAI, Dr. Anne Phelan explained,
 “Complex diseases like CKD have defied conventional research efforts. Working with our partners at AstraZeneca, we leveraged our AI models and platform tools to reason across vast quantities of curated biomedical information.”
A New Drug Target for CKD
Their work paid off. Benevolent Platform found what may turn out to be key in the creation of a new medicine. Lab tests verified their findings, exciting community about what else the new technology could uncover. Dr. Phelan said,
 “Uniting AstraZeneca’s data-sets with our combined scientific expertise has proven to be a potent combination in the search for a novel target to treat this debilitating disease. Together, we are steadily closing the gap between AI, data and biology, and we are excited to continue collaborating on our shared goal of discovering and developing vital new treatments to patients.”
This discovery should only be the first of a long list of data-driven AI solutions to complex medical answers. Professor Pernille Laerkegaard Hansen of AstraZeneca said,
“Together we are transforming how new medicines are discovered and the identification of this first target is only the beginning of what our partnership hopes to achieve.”

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