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New AI-generated COVID drug in development

Pills and vaccine. (Dreamstime/TNS)
September 29, 2023

A new COVID-19 drug designed by Insilico Medicine with the use of artificial intelligence recently entered Phase 1 clinical trials.

Insilico Medicine is a biotech company based in New York City and Hong Kong. The company’s website describes Insilico Medicine as “artificial intelligence for every step of pharmaceutical research and development.”

Insilico Medicine’s new COVID-19 drug is considered a treatment rather than a vaccine. If the AI-generated drug successfully passes clinical trials and is approved for the public, it would serve as an antiviral COVID-19 drug alternative to current drugs such as Lagevrio and Paxlovid, according to Alex Zhavoronkov, PhD, CEO and founder of Insilico Medicine.

In a press release announcing the new COVID-19 drug obtained by Fox News, Zhavoronkov stated, “Generative AI is transforming every area of human development. We’re extremely happy to announce that our second small molecule therapeutic — generated using generative AI — is now entering human clinical trials.” 

According to Fox News, Insilico highlighted some of the negative aspects of other COVID-19 drugs, such as Paxlovid. Insilico claimed that Paxlovid had been linked to undesirable side effects, such as patients testing positive shortly after recovering from COVID-19 and testing negative.

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Additionally, Insilico claimed that while Paxlovid is susceptible to drug-resistant COVID-19 strains, the AI-generated drug has demonstrated effectiveness to variants that show resistance to Paxlovid. The company claimed that the drug ISM3312 “significantly reduced” the virus in lung tissue while also reducing inflammation in the lung.

Zhavoronkov told Fox News, “The drug has been shown to be effective against all variants, as well as other types of coronaviruses that cause diseases, including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).”

Zhavoronkov also has claimed that if the new ISM3312 drug is approved, it would be easy for large quantities of the drug to be produced. “Our molecule requires only a two-step process using simple, commercially available starting materials,” he stated.

According to Fox News, ISM3312 is currently undergoing Phase 1 evaluation to determine both the safety and tolerability of the new drug in healthy volunteers. Additionally, the drug compound is also undergoing tests against the EG.5 COVID-19 variant. Results of the ongoing clinical trials are anticipated to be released by the end of the year.

“Following the completion of the Phase 1 healthy volunteer study, further decisions will be made about testing the compound in coronavirus-infected patients,” said Zhavoronkov.

The biotech CEO told FOX News that COVID-19 cannot be dismissed as “a problem of the past,” highlighting the possible advancements that AI-generated drugs could have against the virus.

“Generative AI offers us a powerful tool for accelerating the drug discovery process and allows us to quickly identify new solutions that we hope can provide more potent defenses against mutating COVID strains and prevent another pandemic,” Zhavoronkov said.