Google's latest AI tackles long and costly drug discovery

Pfizer and other pharma firms are already using the tech.


It can cost billions of dollars to develop drugs and a large percentage fail at the trial stage, so a number of companies are deploying AI to help in that area. Google's Cloud division is the latest to join that race with two new suites aimed at addressing drug discovery while advancing precision medicine, it announced.

The Target and Lead Identification Suite aims to help drug companies better understand proteins and amino acids that are key to drug development. Specifically, it's designed to help scientists identify biological targets that researchers can develop treatments around. This could effectively speed up drug discovery and lower costs.

Early adopters for the suite "include multinational pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and industry-leading biotech companies including Cereval," Google Cloud wrote in a press release. "We are partnering with Google on exploring how AlphaFold2 can potentially accelerate our drug discovery process, speeding up our researchers' ability to conduct their experiments on Google Cloud's scalable, accelerator-optimized compute platform," said Pfizer's principal computational scientist, Nicholas Labello.

Meanwhile, the Multiomics Suite is designed to tackle genomic data analysis. The idea is to find out how genetic variations affect disease in order to create appropriate and even personalized treatments. Genomic databases tend to be enormous, so the suite would give researchers fast access to the appropriate data, helping accelerate treatments.

"We would not be anywhere near where we are today" without the tool, Colossal Biosciences CEO Ben Lamm told CNBC. That company has been an early adopter of Multiomics, and Lamm said it would have been a "massive burden" for Colossal to try to build something similar itself.