Innovate UK is streaming funds into a £1-million artificial intelligence (AI) research project to be delivered by the Medicines Discovery Catapult and two Cambridge-based firms with expertise in software/machine learning.

Currently, high failure rates mean that 90% of potential drugs are dropped between Phase I trials and regulatory approval, significantly boosting the cost of developing new medicines.

Ultimately, the project aims to address some of the challenges by harnessing the power of AI to learn from complex data, which can help better shape the design and testing of potential new medicines, improving their success rates.

The partners are striving to develop an AI platform that drug discovery companies – particularly UK SMEs – can use under licence.

The programme will see Optibrium, which creates software to improve the efficiency and productivity of drug discovery, and Intellegens, a spin out from the University of Cambridge focused on a specific form of AI called ‘deep learning’, work with northwest based Medicines Discovery Catapult over the next two years.

“At Medicines Discovery Catapult we apply innovation, working alongside UK SMEs to drive the development and adoption of new approaches for the discovery and early development of new medicines,” said Professor John Overington, chief informatics officer of the Medicines Discovery Catapult.

“This collaborative R&D activity will allow us to do just that and the grant from Innovate UK represents an important milestone for the advancement of informatics and data science.”