Isomorphic Labs, a London-based startup spun out from DeepMind’s research team, has signed two major partnerships with pharmaceutical leaders Eli Lilly and Novartis. The deals, collectively valued around $3 billion, will have Isomorphic leverage state-of-the-art AI to accelerate the drug discovery process.
Powered by DeepMind’s AlphaFold protein folding software, Isomorphic has developed a proprietary drug design platform. This technology can rapidly predict protein structures and interactions to identify novel drug targets and compounds.
Isomorphic stands to receive $45 million upfront from Eli Lilly, along with up to $1.7 billion in future milestone payments excluding royalties. The Novartis deal also encompasses $37.5 million upfront and up to $1.2 billion in incentives over time, pending research progress.
“We’re thrilled to apply our technology platform alongside partners who share our focus on advancing revolutionary drug design,” said Isomorphic CEO and DeepMind co-founder Demis Hassabis.
The partnerships highlight rising interest in AI-based techniques for pharmaceutical research. Predicting protein structures can accelerate the historically costly and time-intensive process of early-stage drug discovery. This allows researchers to pinpoint biological targets and screen drug candidates faster than traditional manual methods.
Isomorphic’s platform is centered on DeepMind’s AlphaFold 2 system. AlphaFold leverages deep learning to predict protein folding patterns at unprecedented scale and accuracy. While not perfect, it can generate structural hypotheses exponentially faster than experimental approaches.
Recently, AlphaFold was applied to help design a promising compound for liver cancer treatment. The advanced protein insights it provides into biological mechanisms of disease are proving valuable across therapeutic areas.
With the new partnerships, Isomorphic will further develop AlphaFold’s capabilities and apply them to discover medications for diseases targeted by Eli Lilly and Novartis. Its proprietary enhancements to the technology will remain exclusive to the company.
The deals represent a major commercial opportunity for Isomorphic and validation of AI’s growing real-world impact. However, the startup must still deliver on its lofty promises to collect the full multi-billion dollar payouts.
With pressure on to generate profits, the company will quickly ramp up its over 100-person team across locations in London and Switzerland. Transforming the pharma industry doesn’t come cheap - but with AlphaFold at its side, Isomorphic is betting AI will accelerate both research and revenues.