Fujitsu has partnered with Polaris to pilot a ground-breaking new drug discovery platform designed to support pharmaceutical companies to bring vital medication to market more quickly and cost-effectively. The platform uses a combination of quantum-inspired technology, machine learning and hybrid quantum mechanics and molecular mechanics simulations (QM/MM) to transform the process of drug discovery.
The innovative platform will scan for, and ultimately identify, the lead de novo molecules needed to develop drugs to cure diseases having the most significant impact around the world – with an initial focus on finding a cure for the widespread dengue fever.
While other approaches review tens of millions of molecules, Fujitsu and Polaris’ platform can review billions. Not only can it scan more molecules, but it can do so much quicker than any other drug discovery platform on the market. Fujitsu’s quantum-inspired Digital Annealer technology is 10 000 times faster than any other solution – cutting the time taken to identify lead molecules and reach the first stages of drug development from two to four years to just eight months.
Once lead molecules are identified, Polaris’ proprietary machine-learning algorithm and QM/MM simulations then quickly assess whether the molecules possess all the properties that a drug requires to be brought to market. Outbreaks such as the coronavirus highlight the growing need for faster processes to find a cure, and this platform is designed to support pharmaceutical companies to react effectively and at pace.
Patrick Stephenson, Director of Innovation & Healthcare at Fujitsu UK, said: “Fujitsu’s quantum-inspired Digital Annealer is a truly pioneering technology, and I am excited about the impact it will have on improving the drug discovery process together with our partner Polaris. We are looking forward to scaling this platform to tackle many more diseases in the future, enabling new drugs to be brought to patients faster and more cost-effectively.”
Dr Shahar Keinan, CEO at Polaris (a Cloud Pharmaceuticals spin-out), said: “Polaris is excited to be co-creating this novel platform that can revolutionise drug design. We believe drug development has reached an inflection point, and that leveraging advances in quantum-inspired computing will dramatically increase the speed of computation and diversity of candidate molecules, answering clear needs in the market.”
The current pilot is identifying the right molecules necessary to develop a cure for dengue fever, a wide-spread disease with 100 million infections and 22 000 deaths every year. There is still no cure for dengue fever that is suitable for all people affected, so Fujitsu and Polaris prioritised this important target for the pilot of their joint drug discovery platform.
The new lead molecules for a dengue fever drug are estimated to be made available for partners to take through to the next stage in the drug discovery process by May 2020. In parallel, the two companies are exploring the next disease targets with pharmaceutical partners.