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World-first fully automated drug discovery facility announced

The UK Business Secretary, Greg Clark, has announced a unique project to develop the world’s first fully automated drug discovery laboratory, to be based at the new Rosalind Franklin Institute.

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Jun 06, 2018
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At the launch of the new government-funded research facility, the Rosalind Franklin Institute (RFI; Harwell, UK), Business Secretary, Greg Clark, unveiled plans to create a fully automated lab for drug discovery, with the aim of generating new drugs up to ten times quicker than it takes presently.

"It will bring university researchers together with industry experts in one facility and embrace high-risk, adventurous research"

Clark emphasized that this facility will pioneer hands-free molecular discovery, and hopes it will reduce the cost of drug discovery by developing an integrated suite of new technologies to accelerate the discovery of lead molecules. The project is to be carried out through a collaboration of large companies, small and medium-sized enterprises, universities and the Medicines Discovery Catapult (Cheshire, UK).

“This won’t be a traditional chemistry lab,” remarked lead scientist, Adam Nelson, Professor of Biological Chemistry at the University of Leeds (UK). “It will have a unique design and harness robotics and AI to automate the discovery process. It will allow hundreds or thousands of candidate molecules to be investigated at a time. We aim to increase productivity by 5 to 10 times.”

“We also want to find higher quality starting points for drug discovery to maximise the chances of success at later stages in the discovery pipeline.  This will enable to remain globally competitive in bring new drugs to the market that can meet the needs of patients,” Nelson added.

The RFI will harness novel technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence to develop drugs and diagnostics for diseases. The Institute is also expected to help bridge the gap between university research and pharmaceutical companies, as part of the UK’s AI and Data Grand Challenge.

"We also want to find higher quality starting points for drug discovery to maximise the chances of success at later stages in the discovery pipeline"

"It will bring university researchers together with industry experts in one facility and embrace high-risk, adventurous research, that will transform the way we develop new medicines," commented Ian Walmsey, pro-vice-chancellor Research & Innovation at the University of Oxford and chair of the RFI’s Interim Board.

Medicines Discovery Catapult CEO, Chris Molloy, commented, “the Rosalind Franklin Institute’s technology will enable hundreds of thousands of candidate molecules to be investigated at one time  and allow the direct observation of the interactions between drug candidates and target proteins,” adding that he looks forward to “supporting and collaborating with the Rosalind Franklin Institute.”


Sources:
www.rfi.ac.uk/uk-builds-worlds-first-fully-automated-drug-discovery-facility/;
https://md.catapult.org.uk/news/robotics-artificial-intelligence-and-the-launch-of-the-rosalind-franklin-institute/;
www.pharmatimes.com/news/uk_to_develop_worlds_first_hands-free_drug_discovery_lab_1238716

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