Pharma consortium, AWS open Israel AI therapeutics lab

Yair Benita and Mati Gill Photo: Elad Malkah

AstraZeneca, Merck, Pfizer and Teva are teaming with AWS and IBF to open AION Labs in Rehovot.

A consortium of four leading international pharmaceutical companies - AstraZeneca, Merck, Pfizer and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (NYSE: TEVA; TASE: TEVA) have teamed with Amazon Web Services and Israel Biotech Fund (IBF) to open AION Labs, an innovation lab adopting AI technologies and computational science to solve therapeutic challenges. The consortium won a tender from the Israel Innovation Authority, which will support the lab.

AION Labs announced that Mati Gill, a former senior executive at Teva will serve as CEO former head of computational biology at Compugen and science operations at CytoReason and principal scientist at MSD, Yair Benita, Ph.D. will serve as CTO.

Based in Rehovot, AION Labs will create and invest in early stage startups focused on AI and computational biology in drug discovery and development, offering them major resources and mentorship while working closely with them to develop new technologies that meet the most acute and significant challenges in the pharmaceutical industry. The startups will harness the power of AI, 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.

Gill said, "Our R&D needs-based approach, coupled with our outstanding alliance, is poised to transform the process of therapeutic discovery and development. With a strong talent pool, AI technology at our core and a significant commitment of the Israeli government, we hope to contribute to the health and well-being of humankind. I'm honored to lead such a meaningful initiative, and to work closely with our consortium members to solve many of the world's critical health issues."

AION Labs has also announced its strategic partnership with BioMed X, an independent biomedical research institute based in Heidelberg, Germany. BioMed X has a strong 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.

Pfizer SVP and CSO Uwe Schoenbeck said, "AION Labs is an excellent example of what Pfizer seeks to help build through collaboration within biopharma and across industries: a program with the potential to accelerate the development of meaningful breakthroughs that could change patients' lives. We look forward to playing a pivotal role in AION's pursuit of innovation."

Astrazeneca VP data science and AI, R&D Jim Weatherall added, "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. I look forward to helping form the challenges and select and mentor the companies that will enter the Lab."

Merck Head of Global Research at the Healthcare Business Sector Joern-Peter Halle said, "The AION Labs build on our longstanding and successful investments in innovation coming out of Israel. We are excited to work with the partners to create tangible value in applying AI to drug discovery and development in the biopharmaceutical industry and make virtual drug discovery a reality."

Teva global head of specialty R&D Dr. Eran Harary said, "Teva is truly excited to collaborate with top pharma, high-tech and investment companies to assemble this unique biotech venture to develop novel therapeutic treatments. The way we discover and develop new drugs is undergoing transformation. AI technologies and cross-industry collaborations will play an increasingly significant role in revolutionizing the way we address unmet patient needs."

AWS director of healthcare and life sciences Dan Sheeran said, "The launch of AION Labs will provide an opportunity for the healthcare and life sciences industry to uncover new ways to reduce the time and cost for discovery, facilitate open collaboration and interoperability, and ultimately improve patients’ health outcomes. We look forward to supporting AION Labs startups with expertise and the breadth and depth of AWS’s secure, reliable, and scalable cloud services to help tackle some of the biggest R&D challenges in drug discovery and development."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 13, 2021

Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2021

Yair Benita and Mati Gill Photo: Elad Malkah
Yair Benita and Mati Gill Photo: Elad Malkah
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