The innovation lab was launched earlier this month, seeking to use AI technology to transform the process of drug discovery and development. The lab has been formed by the alliance of four pharmaceutical giants – AstraZeneca, Merck, Pfizer and Teva – alongside Amazon Web Services and Israel Biotech Fund. The model is based on that of German independent research institute BioMed X.
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 tech that meets the most acute and significant challenges in the pharmaceutical industry.
Its first call for applications, launched this week, seeks to identify global research talent for new startup company in field of De Novo Computational Design of Therapeutic Antibodies.
Search for computational biologics and biomedical scientists
Therapeutic antibodies are well established life-saving drugs. Discovery of existing therapeutic antibodies relies on immunization or in-vitro selection from large, pre-defined libraries with limited sequence space coverage. Selecting a drug candidate from billions of potential antibody sequences is laborious and expensive and, in many cases, fails to identify functional antibodies.
But AION notes that recent advances in protein structure prediction, artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, and increased availability of experimentally determined antigen-antibody structures present a 'unique opportunity' for AI-driven antibody discovery.
It is inviting computational biologists and biomedical scientists at academic and industry research labs worldwide to propose the development of a next-generation general computational platform for the design of high-affinity and biophysically well-behaved antibody binders directed towards epitopes of choice, starting from an antigen structure or antigen sequence as an input.
The lab's pharma partners will provide a wealth of data for model training and their expertise in setting specifications and evaluating the outcome. Original ideas that go far beyond the current state-of-the-art are being encouraged.
Candidates are invited to submit a competitive project proposal. Shortlisted candidates will be invited to a five-day innovation boot camp in Rehovot. With the support of experienced mentors from the pharma, tech and VC industries, the winning team of scientists will be trained and guided during a fully-funded incubation period of up to four years towards becoming an independent startup.
Further details can be found via AION’s website; and interested candidates are invited to apply before December 12, 2021.