FRANCE — Sanofi has seized the spotlight with its latest deal, a substantial agreement valued at up to US$140 million with Paris-based Aqemia to delve into the discovery of small molecules.

The news follows a series of AI-focused partnerships announced by Sanofi in the past couple of years.

They have included working with Exscientia to discover new oncology and immunology drugs and a small-molecule-focused pact with AtomWise as well as collaborations with Insilico and Owkin.

Aqemia, a product of École normale supérieure’s quantum physics algorithms research, emerged in 2019 with a mission to revolutionize drug discovery through generative AI.

Their unique approach involves running physics-based calculations to generate data, with the overarching goal of accelerating drug discovery and fostering the creation of biotech spin-offs for a multitude of wholly or partly owned drug candidates.

The collaboration with Sanofi entails the application of Aqemia’s physics algorithm and generative AI to the discovery of small molecules across various therapeutic areas.

Maximilien Levesque, CEO and co-founder of Aqemia, emphasized that this collaboration builds on an existing relationship with Sanofi.

The French teams at Sanofi have actively engaged with Aqemia, gaining insights into the technology’s potential, leading to an elevated and strategic partnership.

“This whole new step is about scaling our respective expertise to multiple projects and supporting Sanofi in discovering novel chemical matter at scale with our unique technology, including on difficult projects with limited chemical data upfront and hard issues like selectivity,” stated Levesque.

Sanofi joins the ranks of fellow French drugmaker Servier in collaborating with Aqemia, signifying a broader industry recognition of the potential in AI-driven drug discovery.

Servier and Aqemia have been working together for two years, extending their collaboration into 2023, with a specific focus on an undruggable immuno-oncology target.

For Sanofi, this partnership is part of a larger strategic push into AI, aligning with comments from Houman Ashrafian, the company’s head of research and development.

As the pharmaceutical industry witnesses a surge in AI-focused endeavors, Sanofi’s ambition to become the “first pharma company powered by artificial intelligence at scale” takes a significant leap forward.

The recent collaboration with California’s BioMap, valued at over US$1 billion in biobucks, reinforces this ambition.

BioMap’s AI engine transforms data sets into a biological map of proteins, enhancing predictions for potential protein therapies in various medical fields.

Sanofi’s investment in AI extends beyond collaborations, with the pharmaceutical giant unveiling an app developed in collaboration with AI company Aily Labs.

The app aims to provide a comprehensive “360° view across all Sanofi activities,” solidifying the company’s position as a pioneer in AI utilization within the sector.

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