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The Israel Biotech Fund and Amazon Web Services have partnered with pharmaceutical giants Pfizer, Merck, AstraZeneca, and Teva Pharmaceuticals to open an innovation lab.
The biomedical research lab will be carefully designed and constructed to avoid the release of biohazards. The facility will incorporate a biomedical research lab, as well as a cloud-based computational platform. These lab facilities are to be used by early-stage startups, from the idea stage through to proof of concept.
The goal is to use artificial intelligence to quickly find new treatments, avoid animal experimentation, and push healthcare towards more personalized medicine.
By harnessing advanced AI algorithms, cloud-based computational capabilities, and machine learning, the discovery of new drugs can come about more efficiently.
Mati Gill pointed out that wasn’t a coincidence that the group chose to establish the lab in Israel, where there are already incredible research capabilities as well as AI capabilities.
AION Labs is just the type of facility that companies like Pfizer and Merck seek to help build in collaboration across industries. By applying AI technology to drug discovery and development, patients can be better served.
AION Labs will be modeled on BioMed X, based in Heidelberg, Germany. In fact, AION Labs has formed a strategic agreement with BioMed X. According to the agreement, BioMed X will act as the research and development engine, propelling AION’s model of venture creation.
For a decade, BioMed X has brought together academia, early research, and startups, successfully developing projects that can solve the biggest research and development challenges faced by the pharmaceutical industry faces.
Executives at BioMed X said, in their view, Israel is the best place to explore the use of AI for drug discovery and development. It’s a place where leading global players in technology, pharmaceuticals, and venture capital can come together.
A wadi in Arabic and colloquial Hebrew is a dry river bed, and that is the designation that Israel decided upon for their tech hub. Silicon Wadi is centered around Tel Aviv, including Rehovot and other suburbs.
The country’s high level of education and widespread knowledge of English has contributed to its position in the software industry. It was during the 1980s and 1990s that the country emerged as a major player in the global software market.
Today, around 60 global research and development centers operate in Israel, engaged in not only software and biotechnology, but also medical devices, industrial machinery, communications, scientific instruments, medical devices, and much more.
The pharmaceutical giants behind AION Labs won a grant from the Israel Innovation Authority last December to develop it.
The Israel Innovation Authority has placed priority on life sciences as an important area for growth and investment, launching an innovation laboratory program in 2017.
That program awards funds to international corporations to set up labs supporting startups within Israel. Startup entrepreneurs benefit from the opportunities these labs present to access advanced technology, industry expertise, and market insights.
The Israeli initiative rolled out just in time for the COVID-19 pandemic, which highlighted how big pharma could benefit from new technologies. In fact, the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines occurred largely due to artificial intelligence deployed by Moderna and Pfizer.
New technology and AI are revolutionizing the pharmaceutical industry when it comes to developing drugs and vaccines in record time, including Moderna and Pfizer’s mRNA vaccines. To this end, AION Labs will work with each of the sponsoring pharmaceutical companies to choose a few research and development challenges to focus on each year. These could include ways in which to discover new drugs based on AI, as well as developing new technologies to help develop those drugs.
AION Lab will also call for applications globally, with a focus on both Israelis, living in the country and abroad. AION will offer ex-pat Israelis the opportunity to return to Israel to do ground-breaking scientific research in a great environment for startups. Those accepted will receive four years’ worth of full funding from the Israeli government and the pharmaceutical companies.
Each winning startup will receive $1,000,000 in seed funds for the first two years and an additional $1,000,000 for the next three to four years. They’ll also be allowed to raise money through investors and strategic partnerships.