Inside the nascent industry of AI-designed drugs

Artificial intelligence tools are beginning to upend the drug discovery pipeline, with several new compounds entering clinical trials.

“In the last couple of years, AI has gone from being hypothetically interesting to real programs moving towards the clinic,” says Williams-Jones. “There’s no shortcuts to drug discovery. We can have better informed ideas, but you still have to go through the rest of the [development] process.”

These trials are still in their early days, says Hopkins, so it is not yet clear which compound will cross the finish line first. But he is confident that the use of AI is leaving an indelible mark on drug development and promises to make the process better, faster, and cheaper, as well as enabling the development of more first-in-class compounds.

“We expect this year to see some major advances in the number of molecules and approved drugs produced by generative AI methods that are moving forward,” Hopkins says.