This week, we explore the rise in Alzheimer’s clinical trials despite recruitment hurdles, as well as the use of artificial intelligence in understanding gene interactions. In addition, we discuss SNIPR Biome’s advances in CRISPR-based antibiotics and Tempus’ launch of a data-access AI assistant for cancer patients. Lastly, we look at Eikon Therapeutics’ strategic use of funds to boost its clinical drug pipeline.
Each week we highlight five things affecting the life sciences industry. Here’s the latest.
According to a report by the Alzheimer’s Association, there are a record 187 clinical trials underway for Alzheimer’s disease, an increase from 172 trials last year. This surge in clinical development can be attributed to the renewed interest of pharmaceutical companies, with industry-sponsored trials accounting for 58% of all trials conducted. However, recruitment for these trials remains a major challenge, particularly for phase 2 and 3 studies, with recruitment times ranging from 100 to 200 weeks. The report highlights the need for 57,465 patients to fill all the available clinical trials, but the lack of diversity in recruitment and the availability of approved treatments may hinder enrollment.
Researchers from Gladstone Institutes, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have used AI to gain insights into how interconnected human genes regulate cellular function and cause disease when disrupted. They developed a foundation model called Geneformer, which leverages transfer learning to understand gene interactions. By training Geneformer on vast amounts of data on gene interactions from various human tissues, the model can make predictions about disease-related network dysfunctions. The researchers demonstrated Geneformer’s effectiveness in studying heart cells affected by heart disease and its potential to tackle other cell types and diseases. This AI-powered approach has wide-ranging applications, including identifying drug targets and designing network-correcting therapies. By employing transfer learning, Geneformer overcomes the challenge of limited data in certain diseases and offers a promising tool for accelerating research in biology.
SNIPR Biome, a Danish biotech company, has conducted an early phase 1 study to explore the use of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) as an antibiotic. Data from the study suggests that a CRISPR-based therapeutic can effectively reduce levels of antibiotic-resistant E. coli in humans. The trial showed that the drug was well tolerated with mild to moderate side effects. SNIPR Biome plans to conduct further research to validate these findings and explore the therapy’s potential in reducing infection rates in high-risk patients, as well as develop an intravenous version of the treatment.
Tempus, a health tech company combining DNA sequencing and AI for cancer treatments, is launching a voice and text AI assistant, Tempus One. The AI tool gives physicians easy access to patient data, capable of answering clinical questions and rapidly filtering patient information. Tempus One can also provide updates on clinical test reports and assist with decision-making based on clinical guidelines. The tool has evolved from a prototype to a software that can be installed on phones or desktops and currently manages over 100 petabytes of data. Tempus One is not for sale, but instead functions as a complementary tool to Tempus’ existing business of providing genetic tests and assembling a database of these test results.
Eikon Therapeutics, originally known for its Nobel Prize-winning molecule tracking technology, is now using its significant funds to purchase clinical-stage drugs, having secured over $600 million in previous financing rounds. The company, under CEO Roger Perlmutter, plans to develop a clinical pipeline by acquiring more than four drugs. Recently, Eikon added $106 million in Series C funds, which will finance the early clinical development of its new assets. Key additions to Eikon’s pipeline include two immune modulators from Seven and Eight Biopharma, a PARP inhibitor from IMPACT Therapeutics, and preclinical compounds from Cleave Therapeutics. While focusing on its external acquisitions, Eikon continues to develop its internal pipeline using super-resolution fluorescence microscopy for drug discovery.