Eli Lilly and OpenAI Team Up to Combat Drug-Resistant Pathogens

by Denisse Sandoval
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Eli Lilly and Company (Lilly) will officially be collaborating with OpenAI L.L.C., an artificial intelligence research and development company, as announced by them this past June 25. The partnership’s key objective will be to create antimicrobials that will target drug-resistant pathogens. Lilly will be able to leverage OpenAI’s generative AI and combat one of the top threats in the health landscape, antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The Global Challenge of Antimicrobial Resistance: Prolonged Illness, Increased Spread & Higher Mortality Rates

Globally, AMR poses a significant threat across all regions and income levels, as it leads to prolonged illness, increased spread of infections, and higher death rates. Data shows that the areas generally suffering the most severe consequences from this threat are those situated in low- and middle-income countries. AMR is able to amplify its impact and risk not only to the public health, but also to economies, social structures, and medical advancements due to the widespread misuse and overuse of antibiotics. Addressing this threat requires coordinated global efforts and stricter regulations on antimicrobial use.

Generative AI (a type of artificial intelligence) presents a new opportunity to speed up the discovery of new antimicrobial drugs. Additionally, it facilitates the development of specialized technologies designed specifically for combating drug-resistant pathogens. Diogo Rau, Executive Vice President and Chief Information and Digital Officer at Lilly, expressed, “Generative AI opens a new opportunity to accelerate the discovery of novel antimicrobials and the development of custom, purpose-built technologies in the battle against drug-resistant pathogens. This partnership underscores our commitment to addressing significant health challenges experienced by people around the world.” 

Lilly and OpenAI’s collaboration will showcase a transformative step forward in combating antimicrobial resistance. This partnership is expected to lead to new and improved methods or technologies for addressing the issue of bacteria and other microbes becoming resistant to existing antimicrobial treatments.

Collaborative Efforts and Financial Commitment

The collaboration with OpenAI is part of Lilly’s longstanding commitment to combat drug-resistant pathogens based on their Social Impact Venture Capital Portfolio. This portfolio refers to a collection or group of investments made by venture capital firms that focus on supporting businesses and projects with a mission to create positive social or environmental impact alongside financial returns. These investments typically target ventures that aim to address societal issues such as healthcare access, environmental sustainability, education, or poverty alleviation.

In this case, the commitment to tackle AMR started in the year 2020 when Lilly pledged $100 million to the AMR Action Fund, a global initiative whose target is to support the development of new antibiotics to fight drug-resistant infections. The goal of the pledge was for Lilly to end up delivering two to four new antibiotics by 2030. Additionally, they hoped to fortify the defense against multi-drug-resistant pathogens. Earlier this year, the AMR Action Fund officially announced their new investment in biotechnology companies who focus on infections. 

Brad Lightcap, Chief Operating Officer at OpenAI emphasized, “We’re excited to work with Lilly to find new ways to treat microbial infections. Advanced AI has the potential to revolutionize pharmaceuticals, and we are dedicated to partnering with industry leaders to provide tangible benefits for patients.” This collaboration sets a new standard in the research and development industry, paving the way for AI to revolutionize global healthcare with innovative solutions. 

AI’s Role in Transforming Healthcare, Advancing Drug Discovery and Combating AMR

By joining forces with OpenAI, Lilly aims to transform drug discovery and development, marking a significant milestone in combating AMR. Lilly’s substantial investment and commitment to AI-driven approaches promise to enhance treatment effectiveness and accelerate their creation. The rapidly evolving capabilities of AI hold promising solutions for advancing healthcare in the pharmaceutical industry.

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