Biotech innovation lab formed by AstraZeneca, Merck, Pfizer and Teva

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags AI Artificial intelligence Drug discovery Astrazeneca Pfizer Merck

AION Labs, a ‘first-of-its-kind’ innovation lab that will create and adopt AI technology to transform the process of drug discovery and development, has officially launched this month.

The lab has been formed by the alliance of four pharmaceutical companies – AstraZeneca, Merck, Pfizer and Teva – alongside Amazon Web Services Inc. and Israel Biotech Fund. The launch of the consortium follows the winning of a government tender to establish an Innovation Lab in December 2020 after the Israel Innovation Authority identified life sciences as a vital area for growth potential and investment.

AION Labs will create and invest in early-stage start-up teams focused on AI and computational biology in drug discovery and development, offering resources and mentorship to develop new technologies that meet the most acute and significant challenges in the pharmaceutical industry.

“Each start-up will harness the power of artificial intelligence, and scale and security of the cloud, to find new treatments faster and more efficiently, avoid animal experiments, and advance healthcare towards patient-centric precision medicine,”​ says AION Labs. 

AION Labs will include both a wet lab, where biomedical research will be performed, and a cloud-based computational lab environment, focusing on the development of new algorithms and computational methods with the aim of accelerating the discovery and development of potential new therapies.

Mati Gill, a former senior executive at Teva Pharmaceuticals, will head up the lab as CEO, while former head of computational biology at Compugen and science operations at CytoReason and principal scientist at MSD, Yair Benita, Ph.D., has been appointed CTO.

AION Labs has also entered a strategic partnership with BioMed X, an independent biomedical research institute based in Heidelberg, Germany. BioMed X has a track record of seeding biomedical innovations at the interface between academic research and the pharmaceutical industry. BioMed X's innovation model, based on global crowdsourcing and local incubation of the brightest research talents and ideas, will serve as the R&D engine to propel AION Lab's venture creation model.

Jim Weatherall, Vice President, Data Science and AI, R&D, AstraZeneca said, "Data, analytics and AI are already starting to transform the way we discover and develop new medicines and I believe we are only at the tip of the iceberg in terms of its promise.

"Through AION Labs we have the potential to solve some of the greatest R&D challenges and find new and better ways to discover, test and accelerate the potential medicines of tomorrow.” 

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