AI enlisted for drug design
Australian researchers have used AI to develop a more effective seasonal flu vaccine.
Around 228 people have already died from flu related complications across Australia in 2019.
Nikolai Petrovsky, Flinders University Professor and Research Director of local company Vaxine Pty Ltd , says current flu vaccines do provide some protection, but his team have demonstrated a lot can be done to improve their effectiveness.
Professor Petrovsky has developed the new technology using adjuvants — substances which enhances the body’s immune response to a vaccine.
The technology for this improved flu shot is also believed to be the first human drug in the world to be completely designed by artificial intelligence (AI).
“This represents the start of a new era where artificial intelligence is going to play an increasingly dominant role in drug discovery and design,” says Professor Petrovsky.
Although computers have been used in the past to help in drug design, this vaccine technology was independently designed by an AI program called SAM (Search Algorithm for Ligands), created by the Flinders-based team.
Now, the vaccine has been picked up for a US clinical trial, which will take about 12 months to complete and aims to recruit 240 healthy volunteers.
The trial is sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the US National Institutes of Health.
Dr Petrovsky expressed gratitude to the US Government for providing long term funding for research that led to this breakthrough.
“It takes decades to develop a new human vaccine and this is extremely hard to achieve under Australian funding models, which tend to be short term.”