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NEC initiates AI-driven drug discovery to fight cancer

NEC Corporation announced on Monday it will start cancer drug development which focuses on advanced immunotherapy in the US through the use of artificial intelligence.

The latest AI technology will be used to start clinical trials for individualized neoantigen vaccines in collaboration with Transgene SA.

NEC’s AI aims to analyze the genetic information of patients with recurring cancer in an effort to identify the abnormal gene information that initiate cancer cells.

The companies both aim to combat head and neck cancer as well as ovarian cancer wit the clinical trials which are set to be conducted in the United States and Europe.

An application which was submitted to the US’s Food and Drug Association’s (FDA) Investigational New Drug (IND) program received clearance to begin the trials back in April this year. They plan to now proceed with a Phase 1 clinical trial.

Application submissions to the relevant respective bodies in France and the UK are yet to be cleared and confirmed.

Around 18.1 million new cancer cases were diagnosed in 2018 all over the world. Also, cancer is said to be the leading cause of death in Japan.

Cancer immunotherapy is a type of treatment which uses a patient’s very own immune system to fight the terminal disease.

With the widespread surge in genomic analysis, we now have a large amount of genome data which is where AI steps in to do the work to efficiently put the data together.

NEC expects its AI-driven drug discovery initiative to be valued at ¥300 billion (over $2 billion) by 2025 through its development of safer and better immunotherapy treatments.

Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer of Transgene stated, “The advent of individualized immunotherapies calls for new business paradigms and thus new types of alliances.”

He added,  “We are confident that Transgene and NEC have established a strong technological foundation with great synergies for the co-development of our individualized neoantigen vaccine, TG4050. We look forward to capitalizing on our synergistic expertise and complementary business development efforts.”

NEC is the first company in Japan to initiate such trials.