The $2.3M in grant funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will support the development of multiple global health programs to advance novel antimalarial and anti-tuberculosis small molecule therapies in collaboration with the foundation’s global network
SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- October 6th, 2020 -- Atomwise, the leader in using artificial intelligence (AI) for small molecule drug discovery, announced today $2.3M in grant funding for AI-based discovery of antimalarial and anti-tuberculosis therapies from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant funding will be used to discover novel compounds that can advance the development of novel antimalarial and anti-tuberculosis small molecule therapies in collaboration with the Gates Foundation’s global network of partners and funded investigators. Atomwise will provide AI-based drug discovery support to leading researchers to translate their biological discoveries into novel therapies.
“Atomwise’s expertise in AI drug discovery has the potential to further enhance malaria drug discovery,” said Dr. Timothy Wells, Chief Scientific Officer, Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV). “We are excited that Atomwise has the potential to accelerate identification of new chemical series against discrete parasite biological targets and deliver multiple new starting points for drug discovery. With the development of drug resistance, new compounds to address unmet needs in malaria are urgently needed.”
“On behalf of the research organizations of the TB Drug Accelerator program, we are excited to collaborate with Atomwise to accelerate the discovery and development of novel compounds against tuberculosis,” said Dr. James Sacchettini, Ph.D, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at Texas A&M and Member of the TB Drug Accelerator program. “The Accelerator program has brought together best practices and tools for drug discovery and so we gladly welcome the Atomwise team and their best-in-class technology.”
Tuberculosis and malaria remain a major threat to global public health even after more than five decades of active research and the existence of approved therapies. Tuberculosis remains the leading cause of death from infectious disease worldwide, killing 1.5 million people in 20181. Malaria is the world’s most prominent parasitic disease, with an estimated 405,000 deaths from malaria globally in 2018, with children under five being the most vulnerable group2. Together, the burden of these two diseases remains high in part due to limitations with existing therapies (e.g. toxicity, and patient non-compliance with treatment) and continual emergence of drug resistance.
Despite the high unmet need, several issues have limited the pipeline of potential new therapies for tuberculosis and malaria. The high drug development cost, low probability of success and lack of sufficient commercial return has disincentivized pharma and biotech companies from initiating programs to address these disease areas.
Atomwise will apply its AI technology to discover and develop compounds with specific activity against malaria and tuberculosis in a way that is rapid and iterative. The company’s technology is particularly well suited for infectious diseases, with its ability to pursue multiple targets simultaneously with speed and scale. The Atomwise team is currently pursuing some of the most challenging targets for infectious diseases that have high unmet needs and affect underserved communities in the world, including Ebola, and neglected tropical diseases like West Nile, Chagas Disease, Dengue fever. More recently the company announced 15 research collaborations initiated with global universities to simultaneously explore broad-spectrum therapies for COVID-19, targeting 15 unique and novel mechanisms of action.
“We are dedicated to making an urgent and beneficial impact on global health,” said Dr. Abraham Heifets, Ph.D., Co- founder and CEO of Atomwise. “We seek to apply our technology towards areas where AI can significantly accelerate drug discovery for diseases with high unmet needs and underserved communities, and are honored to work with the Gates Foundation and their global network of drug developers to make broad spectrum therapies for malaria and TB a reality for the millions of people suffering from these diseases every year.”
1 World Health Organization (WHO). Global Tuberculosis Report 2019, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tuberculosis
2 World Health Organization (WHO). World Malaria Report (2019, December). Retrieved July 25, 2020, from https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/world-malaria-report-2019
About the Medicines for Malaria Venture
Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) is a leading product development partnership (PDP) in the field of antimalarial drug research and development. Its mission is to reduce the burden of malaria in disease-endemic countries by discovering, developing, and facilitating delivery of new, effective and affordable antimalarial drugs. Since its foundation in 1999, MMV and partners have built the largest portfolio of antimalarial R&D and access projects ever assembled, have brought forward 11 new medicines, and have assumed the access stewardship of a further two. An estimated 2.2 million lives have been saved by these MMV co-developed medicines. MMV's success is based on its extensive partnership network of around 150 active partners including from the pharmaceutical industry, academia, and endemic countries. MMV's vision is a world in which innovative medicines will cure and protect the vulnerable and under-served populations at risk of malaria and help to ultimately eradicate this terrible disease. https://www.mmv.org/
About TB Drug Accelerator (TBDA)
Launched in August 2012, TB Drug Accelerator (TBDA) is a ground-breaking partnership between pharmaceutical companies and research organizations with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Aided by an initial investment of nearly U.S. $20 million (approx. €16.5 million) from the Gates Foundation, the TBDA aims to develop new pre-clinical drug candidates with treatment-shortening potential and provide proof-of-concept for a one-month three-drug regime, by 2022. The long-term goal of the TBDA is to create a TB drug regimen that cures patients in only one month, rather than the 6 months now needed for treatment. Learn more at https://globalhealthprogress.org/collaboration/tb-drug-accelerator-program/
Atomwise is revolutionizing how drugs are discovered with AI. We invented the use of deep learning for structure-based drug discovery, today developing a pipeline of small-molecule drug candidates advancing into preclinical studies. Our AtomNet® technology has been used to unlock more undruggable targets than any other AI drug discovery platform. We are tackling over 600 unique disease targets across 775 collaborations spanning more than 250 partners around the world. Our portfolio of joint ventures and partnerships with leading pharmaceutical, agrochemical, and emerging biotechnology companies represents a collective deal value approaching $7 billion. Atomwise has raised over $174 million from leading venture capital firms to advance our mission to make better medicines, faster. Learn more at atomwise.com or follow @AtomwiseInc.
Sara Agee Le, PhD
VP of Marketing and Communications