Ai award sets sights on Parkinson’s

Two of the UK’s leading Parkinson’s Disease charities are to receive research support from Europe’s largest artificial intelligence company in an attempt to find new treatments for the disease.

Blue pills medicationBenevolentAI will offer Ai-driven R&D support to Parkinson’s UK and The Cure Parkinson’s Trust in a drive to identify three medicines that can be repurposed to address Parkinson’s and add two new ways to treat the disease.

The collaboration will happen after the two charities won the inaugural BenevolentAI Award, following a competition run with the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC).

The BenevolentAI Award – set to become an annual occurrence – aims to support leading medical charities by offering the chance for breakthrough discoveries using advanced artificial intelligence. Applicants for the awards were asked to submit proposals that demonstrated how BenevolentAI’s technology could solve specific research challenges medical charities face.

PUK and CPT will take advantage of BenevolentAI’s ‘healthcare knowledge graph’, containing more than 1.3bn meaningful bioscience relationships, to conduct potentially breakthrough research into Parkinson’s treatment.

The BenevolentAi graph deploys big data instead of laboratory science for new drug discovery. Its platform ingests and processes knowledge from complex scientific data, then analyses, reasons and extracts knowledge – speeding up the discovery of new scientific insights, at scale.

Parkinson’s UK and CPT will leverage the BenevolentAI platform’s capabilities to reason, deduce and suggest entirely new treatments. The two charities aim to identify at least three currently available medicines that can be repurposed to address Parkinson’s and two new ways to treat the disease.

The partners hope that if successful, the joint work will mark a significant advance in the number of options and targets available.

BenevolentAI is the global leader in the development and application of AI for scientific innovation. It is the largest private AI company in Europe. Founded in 2013, it has grown with investment of £68m from UK patient capital investor Neil Woodford and pharma foundations.

BenevolentBio chief executive Jackie Hunter (pictured) said: “If we are going to be able to make a breakthrough in Parkinson’s we’re going to need to take a different approach. Through this collaboration, we’re doing that by combining the charities’ extensive knowledge of the disease and our world-leading knowledge graph platform.

“We’re extremely excited to see if over the next 12 months we’re able to identify new treatments that could reach patients rapidly.”

Jackie Hunter2017 marked 200 years since Dr James Parkinson first described Parkinson’s, a progressive degenerative brain disorder that affects 145,000 people in the UK. That figure that is predicated to double over the next 50 years as life expectancy increases. There is still no cure.

David Dexter, deputy director of research at Parkinson’s UK, said: “We’re thrilled that our application was successful and are excited to see what this partnership will produce. People with Parkinson’s have waited too long for better treatments and repurposing existing drugs holds huge potential to accelerate our work towards a time when no one fears Parkinson’s.”

Cure Parkinson’s Trust funds both pre-clinical and clinical research to slow, stop or reverse Parkinson’s. Director of research and development Richard Wyse said: “We are dedicated to bringing new disease modifying treatments – including known drugs as well as novel compounds – into clinical trials as we leave no stone unturned in our hunt to find ways to slow, stop and reverse Parkinson’s.

“By harnessing the phenomenal technology capabilities at BenevolentAI we and Parkinson’s UK have the opportunity to widen our search for better therapeutics, verify our findings, and initiate fast-track development.”

Andrew Huddart: BenevolentBio takes the AI road

Photo: Janet and Albert Kirkwood (Parkinson’s Disease UK)