Many people laud the accomplishments of clinical trials – and for, in some cases, good reason. Clinical trials have been crucial in identifying and developing therapeutic options for patients to help improve outcomes and overall quality-of-life. But what if I told you that not every clinical trial was effective? In fact, shares Dr. Isaac Bentwich, MD:
People are often unaware of how intensive and broken the pharmaceutical process is. Of all drugs that go into clinical trials, a stunning 89% of them fail.
Over the last thirty years, Isaac has been acting as a pioneer in the field of genomics and artificial intelligence (AI). A physician by training, and with experience blending machine learning and life sciences, Isaac has founded three bio-AI technology companies with a goal of improving drug development and safety to benefit all those in need. In November 2019, Isaac co-founded Quris with Yossi Haran – and the pair, alongside their passionate team and impressive advisory board, have been working towards revolutionizing drug development ever since.
Recently, Isaac and I sat down to discuss Quris, the complexities and problems of contemporary drug development, and how bio-AI could facilitate socially driven drug design for rare diseases.
About Isaac Bentwich
Isaac Bentwich graduated as a Doctor of Medicine – Biotechnology from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in 1990. That same year, he founded Pegasus Medical; 10 years later, in 2000, he founded Rosetta Genomics. The Quris team page explains that:
Isaac led the team at Rosetta Genomics in the discovery of hundreds of novel genes, more so than all the universities in the world combined, and delivered novel cancer diagnostics based on these genes. Now, at Quris, Isaac and his team are using a similar bio-AI approach to disrupt the drug development process.
Quris: An Overview
Quris Technologies Ltd. (“Quris” or “Quris AI”) is an AI pharmaceutical company that is focusing on drug safety prediction, which Isaac explains as:
how we can better predict which drugs will be safe for use in the human body and how we can better personalize these. We want to find ways to determine if a drug is not only safe, but suitable, for particular individuals.
The company is led by top researchers and scientists who are all working together to revolutionize drug development and safety. Currently, the Advisory Board contains a number of noted bioengineers and medtech pioneers. These include Professor Aaron Ciechanover, a Noble Laureate, and Professor Robert Langer of MIT, who is one of the co-founders of Moderna.
Right now, the company has signed a collaboration with Merck KGaA, as well as the New York Stem Cell Foundation. However, people can expect to see additional collaborations and partnerships in the future.
For Isaac, one of the benefits is that the business has the potential to be very successful – while also making meaningful and actionable changes for patients. He shares:
I get up every morning thankful for the privilege to do something significant and to be of service to humanity.
About the Quris Platform
Quris uses a radical approach to drug safety and development through its proprietary Bio-AI Clinical Prediction Platform. Through this Platform, Isaac – and the rest of the Quris team – hope to overcome some of the issues in traditional drug development. Isaac explains:
When scientists are discovering a potential new drug, they go to the lab to test it first. After a few years, and a lot of money, they then go to animal studies. Until recently, everyone has thought that’s just the way the process has to go because testing a drug on a mammal was thought to provide some better guess of whether it works in humans. Unfortunately, this is a terrible and ineffective predictor. So our unique platform and approach is designed to improve predictions on clinical safety, efficacy, and tolerability to better meet patient needs.
Having a better predictive process can also help streamline the drug development process. Right now, drug development is a costly endeavor. The typical cost of developing a new drug is around $2.5B, with around $200M for a successful drug. Says Isaac:
For each successful drug development, there’s billions spent on unsuccessful attempts because there’s no way to predict which drugs will actually work. Quris is a game changer because it can provide stronger predictors.
The Bio-AI Clinical Prediction Platform, and the technology used, has three main components:
- Patients-on-a-Chip. This cutting-edge technology allows Quris to create miniature organs (organoids) such as a tiny brain, liver, or even blood vessels. These miniature organs, which can be as small as ⅓ mm, can then be connected in the lab via the Quris AI Chip-on-Chip platform. Right now, Quris has 18 patents regarding this technology. Once the organs are connected, the company can then test thousands of drugs on the Patients-on-a-Chip to learn more about treatment responses.
- Genomic diversity. As Isaac explains, Quris wants to be able to test how therapies will work in genomically diverse groups. Quris has signed an agreement with the NY Stem Cell Foundation. Through this partnership, Quris has exclusive access to hundreds of stem cells to be able to test therapies on a spectrum of genomically different cells and organs. In the future, Quris also hopes to establish collaborations with different universities and medical organizations to spur an even more efficient drug discovery process.
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning. As Quris is an AI company, it makes sense that AI/machine learning plays a crucial role in its platform. Isaac shares:
We use next-generation nanosensors to test how the organs are feeling – after different treatments and tests – and to train the AI. This allows us to see whether a drug will be effective in humans and for whom it might be safe. Through machine learning and our different algorithms, we’re able to see what drugs might be good for you if you have certain genetic markers. So our platform really allows us to personalize what we’re doing.
Through this platform, Quris is currently looking to assist in drug safety testing and drug development within the rare disease space. Learn more about Quris’ scalable platform here.
Don’t forget to join us in Part 2 of our interview, where we’ll discuss Quris’ aims to find solutions for rare diseases, what Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is, and the process of FXS drug development.