A computer may design the perfect antibody to fight cancer in a breakthrough for medicine. Prof. Yanay Ofran explains why testing it on mice can be misleading, and what limits creativity in biotech companies: ‘They’re searching for a new biology and trying to treat it using old technology. We do the opposite.
In recent weeks certain doctors and patients with terminal cancer in Australia have been participating in a highly important experiment. The doctors are injecting the patients with an antibody that they hope will activate a molecule familiarly known as IL-2, which is naturally produced in the human body and can eradicate tumors.
What makes the experiment unusual is that the antibody they’re injecting wasn’t produced by living tissue, but rather by computers in the laboratory of Biolojic Design in Rehovot. The antibody, known as AU-007, is the first to be designed by computer and reach the stage of clinical trials. It evokes keen hopes because if it works, it paves the way for the development of a new kind of drug based on computational biology and big data.
Like practically every drug that enters clinical trials on humans, Biolojic Design’s antibody was first tested on mice. All evinced positive reactions to the treatment. In the 17-day trial period of the study, the antibody led to the complete elimination of the tumors in ten of 19 mice, and significantly inhibited the development of tumors in the nine other mice.
Prof. Yanay Ofran, founder and CEO of Biolojic Design, is keeping his enthusiasm strictly curbed. “We have a joke we tell at conferences. ‘We have great news for all the mice in the audience. We’ve managed to infect and sicken them with 1001 diseases and cure them.’ The lingua franca of the drug development world, the empiric language it uses, is animal studies. You have to show success with an animal trial or you won’t be able to raise money, the regulator won’t let you test it on people, and doctors won’t refer their patients to the trial.”Continue reading… “Made in Israel: First AI-designed Antibody Could Lead to Eradication of Tumors “