PYC Therapeutics enters into collaboration with Google Cloud for AI-driven precision medicine

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By Colin Hay - 
PYC Therapeutics ASX biotech AI Google collaboration

Clinical-stage biotechnology company PYC Therapeutics (ASX: PYC) has unveiled a collaboration strategy which will link it with Google Cloud and other specialised partners to utilise artificial intelligence (AI) to help develop new medicinal drugs.

PYC, a leader in working with new medical breakthroughs such as ribonucleic acid (RNA) therapy, is aligning itself with Google Cloud’s AI platform to build custom-designed machine learning models.

Integrated with AlphaFold and its successors, the project will target the creation of a new generation of precision medicines.

Leveraging precision medicine data

PYC’s Australian chief executive officer Rohan Hockings told the ASX the project will leverage his company’s proprietary datasets with the aim of identifying optimal sequences and structures of peptides that will provide the ability to deliver precision medicine cargoes to specific cells within the human body.

“The project retains a strong integration between the computational (in silico) and biological (in vitro) dimensions of drug discovery through the prediction and validation of these specialised peptides to ensure pharmacological relevance,” Mr Hockings stated in the announcement to the ASX.

Along with Google Cloud, PYC is collaborating with GoPomelo and a special-purpose vehicle set up to implement the project.

Special funding agreement

A Google Cloud premier partner, GoPomelo was established in 2008 to provide digital transformation services with best-in-class cloud solutions.

The specialised partners involved in the project will be responsible for the payment of a $4.5 million up-front fee to PYC for the benefit of accessing the company’s proprietary datasets and capabilities.

For its part, PYC will be responsible for funding the $10m required for execution of the project over a 12-month term.

Google will have the right to publish the process used to design, host and execute the machine learning models which use AlphaFold, its successor technologies and Google Cloud’s AI platform.

Protein prediction program

Developed by DeepMind, AlphaFold is an AI program which performs predictions of protein structure.

DeepMind and EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL: EBI) have partnered to create AlphaFold DB to make these predictions freely available to the scientific community.

The latest database release contains over 200 million entries, providing broad coverage of UniProt.

AlphaFold DB also provides open access to over 200 million protein structure predictions to accelerate scientific research.

AI medical investment surging

Healthcare spending on AI software is expected to grow 40% in 2023 from $6.5 billion in 2022 to nearly $9.1bn this year.

Scientists and academics believe that AI has the potential to revolutionise medicine by providing a better understanding of health and disease and the ability to make more data-based decisions.

It has been forecast that millions of doctors, nurses and healthcare workers will experiment with various AI-based tools where they only need to review the output, leading to increased efficiency and adoption of AI in healthcare.

Fast-track to success

Earlier this year, PYC received “fast-track” designation from the US Food and Drug Administration for its VP-001 program, the first investigational drug candidate designed to address retinitis pigmentosa type 11 to progress to human trials.

This accelerated process is designed to facilitate the development, and the review of drugs to treat serious conditions and fill an unmet medical need and often leads to earlier drug approval and subsequent access by patients.