The Idiap research institute, an AI expert based in Martigny, Switzerland, and InflamAlps, a company specializing in pharmaceutical research and development, have announced a partnership in the ABRoad project. Supported by the Ark Foundation, it aims to develop a digital platform for selecting potential sources of antibiotics.
Accelerating the selection of potential antibiotic sources using AI
The ABRoad project aims to support drug discovery, determine bioequivalent substances and identify new antibiotics.
Using state-of-the-art Natural Language Inference (NLI) methods developed by Idiap, the project aims to develop a textual interpretation platform to support biomedical discovery from large scientific textual databases (articles and patents). A model allowing the comparison of chemical formulas with their related texts will also be developed.
André Freitas, head of the Explainable Reasoning and AI Lab (ExplAIn Lab) at the Idiap Research Institute, explains:
“In recent years, these methods have evolved dramatically to enable the interpretation of textual evidence on a large scale. With the ABRoad project, we will demonstrate their value in augmenting the antibiotic discovery process.”
Reducing the cost of pharmaceutical research
Identifying potential sources of antibiotic substances, which can then be experimentally validated, requires the interpretation of scientific literature (articles and patents) on a large scale.
“How do we know that what we are looking for does not already exist?“, asks Vincent Mutel, CEO of InflamAlps. Thanks to recent advances in natural language processing (NLP), it is now possible to automate important parts of this selection process. he continues “The stakes are very high. It’s about avoiding unnecessary searches and therefore accelerating the discovery of new antibiotics.”
The software infrastructure developed for the ABRoad project is a true proof of concept of the application of recent NLP methods and will give a real strategic boost to biomedical companies in Valais, and beyond. The project also strengthens the position of the canton of Valais as a national focal point in the field of natural language processing.
Focus on Idiap, a leading institute
The Idiap Research Institute is an independent, non-profit research foundation. Its activities encompass fundamental research, training (university and post-graduate level) and technology transfer activities in the field of both theoretical and applied AI.
Its research areas include, among others, speech and visual recognition, machine learning, human-computer interaction, robotics, language analysis, social computing, genomics or bio-imaging. The Institute is affiliated with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) and is one of the most active independent research institutions in the field of information technology.
The skills and know-how of its teams are at the heart of the partnership established with the company InflamAlps, which specializes in the research of new anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial molecules.
Making the Canton of Valais a recognized technology park
The Ark Foundation was created in 2004 by the Department of Economy, Energy and Territory of the Canton of Valais in Switzerland. It organizes and coordinates the various activities that enable the establishment, growth and development of start-ups in the area.
It also encourages collaboration between various local, national and international networks of expertise, in particular to promote the development of new knowledge from specialized universities and cantonal and national research institutes. The authorities aim to create a genuine technology park in Valais. This park, comprising six sites, focuses on three specific areas:
- Computer and communication sciences: TechnoArk, IdeArk;
- Life sciences: BioArk Monthey, BioArk Visp, PhytoArk;
- Energy and environment : BlueArk, Energypoli.