"Your body really needs fibrosis. Otherwise, your scars do not heal and your wounds do not heal," Zhavoronkov says. But in IPF, fibrosis goes wrong. He sees that as one way that bodies break down over time. IPF becomes more likely later in life but isn't a normal part of aging.
Insilico's team developed its new drug in 18 months. First, it used AI to study IPF and found a new way to target it. Then it ran algorithms to find new drugs and tested them in a lab. As expected, it took rounds of experiments, with the algorithm learning from each round.
The result: a new drug hopefully headed for clinical trials starting in early 2022. If all goes well, it may be on the market 4 years later. Insilico hasn't published its IPF findings in a scientific journal yet.
AI helped design the drug. But clinical trials are often longer and harder. Many drugs seem promising in labs and sometimes in mice but fail when tested in people.
As Zhavoronkov puts it, AI is like a Ferrari: "You go from 0 to 100 very quickly. But then you move with the speed of traffic."
Even if AI doesn't ace every new drug, it can simplify the process.