AWS joins pharma and biotech leaders in launching AION Labs to transform therapeutics

October 13, 2021 Dan Sheeran

Global, cross-industry collaboration is the key to developing high-quality therapeutics that will improve the lives of as many people as possible. To that end, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is excited to join pharmaceutical industry leaders AstraZeneca, Merck KGaA, Pfizer, and Teva, along with the Israel Biotech Fund, to launch AION Labs, an innovation hub that combines wet lab biomedical research with computational discovery acceleration. Powered by AWS, the AION Innovation Lab expects to produce groundbreaking artificial intelligence (AI) and computational ventures that will transform the discovery and development of new therapies.

This consortium won a government tender in December 2020 after the Israel Innovation Authority identified life sciences as a vital area for growth potential and investment. With the headquarters to be based in Rehovot, Israel, AION Labs will provide a key node for biomedical collaboration within the EMEA region. AWS is proud to collaborate with the local research ecosystem to play a global role in accelerating innovation in this space.

Experience driving patient-centric innovation

The global COVID-19 pandemic has made a profound impact on the biopharmaceutical industry. Moderna Therapeutics—along with several other companies—was able to shorten the time to develop vaccines from 10 years down to one with the help of AI and machine learning (ML) capabilities built on AWS. Academic and industry research contributors also introduced several new public/private partnerships and collaborations to share critical research and public health data securely in record time. Finally, clinical trial sponsors moved up to 55 percent of active trials to remote and virtual formats. In short, the industry compressed achievements that may have taken 5-10 years into just one year. But we believe that’s just the beginning.

AWS focuses on enabling our customers to continue accelerating innovation across the life sciences—from bench to bedside. We look at health from the patients’ perspective, and are proud to be part of AION Labs because the collaboration creates new opportunities to drive scientific and technological advancements that will benefit individuals and communities. 

With AI in particular, we have seen customers redefine the space in which they operate. For example, life science startups like Relay Therapeutics and Insitro leveraged AWS solutions that made significant progress to fulfill the promise of delivering better drugs at significantly lower costs for patients and developers alike. In addition to larger players leveraging AI in the biopharmaceutical industry, 100 startups are already using AWS Biotech Blueprint, a reference architecture for scientific applications that serves biotechnology companies intending to manage their software on AWS. AION Labs presents an opportunity to develop and trial more of these off-the-shelf tools that can create optimized starting places for new players who will contribute fresh ideas and strategies to the field of life science research and discovery.

Addressing core drug research and discovery pain points

It is very hard to innovate in the life sciences sphere. While the pandemic has been a catalyst, we have still only unlocked a fraction of the potential for new biomedical discoveries, personalized treatments, and global health strategies.

Pharmaceutical innovation too often occurs in parallel silos, and startups entering the space sometimes struggle to identify and effectively address the most significant pain points within the industry. The launch of AION Labs presents a unique opportunity to solve these massive challenges because it creates unique partnerships where startups have access to real needs, pharmaceutical companies can lend their years of expertise and resources, and AWS can offer technological innovation and unique thinking. The philosophy of AION Labs matches our AWS “working backwards” process by developing products based on specific customer needs. In the same way, AION Labs will start by defining core drug discovery and development requirements and then apply expertise and innovation to meet them.

Calling startups to solve therapeutic challenges with AION Labs’ help

As part of its operational model, AION Labs will create and invest in early-stage startup teams that are developing new technologies, treatments, and approaches to solve the most pressing problems in pharmaceutical research and development. Each startup that is chosen to work with AION Labs will receive top-notch resources and mentorship—experts from the organizations that form the consortium will work closely with startups on their chosen projects. Each project will harness the power of AI to find new treatments faster, minimize animal experiments, and advance healthcare towards patient-centric precision medicine.

Even in the initial conversations focused on which research and discovery challenges to tackle first, we are optimistic that the startups AION Labs will launch will help the biotech industry fast-track solutions to massive health challenges within the next 10 years. Everyone who joins us will be part of something big. Our AION Labs collaborators are looking to AWS to help with major transformation, and they chose us not only for our history of innovative thinking but also for our expertise in life sciences and understanding of the field’s unique needs and regulatory environment. We understand that a collaborative model is the path forward for research, technology, and innovation. Stay tuned for the announcement of the first four challenges we seek to address through AION labs’ close support for founders and startups.

To learn more about how AWS is empowering healthcare and life sciences, visit aws.amazon.com/health.

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