AstraZeneca, Merck KGaA, Pfizer, and Teva Team up with Tech and Investment Leaders to Launch New Biotech Innovation Lab

AION Labs will be a first-of-its-kind AI/pharma and computational biology innovation lab aimed at spearheading the adoption of AI technologies and computational science.

The formation of AION Labs, a new biotechnology innovation laboratory, was announced on Oct.13, 2021. This first-of-its-kind innovation lab is meant to spearhead the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and computational science to solve therapeutic challenges.

AION Labs was formed from the alliance of four leading pharmaceutical companies—AstraZeneca, Merck KGaA, Pfizer, and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries—and a hi-tech and biotech investment firm—Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Israel Biotech Fund (IBF)— respectively. The alliance aims to build groundbreaking AI and computational ventures that will leverage the cloud to transform how new therapies are discovered and developed.

The purpose of AION Labs is to create and invest in early-stage start-up teams focused on AI and computational biology in drug discovery and development. The lab will offer each team resources and mentorship while working closely with them to develop new technologies that answer the most significant challenges in the pharmaceutical industry. Each start-up will use AI along with the scale and security of the cloud to find new treatments faster and more efficiently, avoid animal experiments, and advance healthcare towards patient-centric precision medicine.

AION Labs will include both a wet lab for biomedical research and a cloud-based computational lab environment that focuses on the development of new algorithms and computational methods to accelerate the discovery and development of potential new therapies. Both wet lab and computational lab will be under the guidance of top senior researchers and experts from AION Labs’ partners.

In addition, AION Labs has formed a strategic partnership with BioMed X, an independent biomedical research institute based in Heidelberg, Germany, giving AION Labs a vehicle with which to seed biomedical innovations at the interface between academic research and the pharmaceutical industry. BioMed X’s innovation model, based on global crowdsourcing and local incubation of research talents and ideas, will serve as the R&D engine to drive AION Labs’ venture creation model.

The lab launched following receipt of a government tender in December 2020 for establishing an innovation lab based on the identification of the life sciences sector as a vital area for growth and investment by the Israel Innovation Authority.

Mati Gill, a former senior executive at Teva Pharmaceuticals, has been appointed CEO of the lab. Yair Benita, former head of computational biology at Compugen and science operations at CytoReason and principal scientist at Merck & Co., has been appointed chief technology officer.

“We are excited to launch our new Innovation Lab for new drug and device discoveries,” said Gill in a company press release. “Our R&D needs-based approach, coupled with our outstanding alliance, is poised to transform the process of therapeutic discovery and development. With a strong talent pool, AI technology at our core, and a significant commitment of the Israeli government, we hope to contribute to the health and well-being of humankind. I’m honored to lead such a meaningful initiative, and to work closely with our consortium members to solve many of the world’s critical health issues.”

“We are excited to extend our successful innovation model to Israel,” said Christian Tidona, founder and managing director of BioMed X, in the press release. “In our view, Israel is currently the best place to jointly leverage the power of artificial intelligence for drug discovery and development together with leading global players in pharmaceuticals, tech, and venture capital.”

Source: AION Labs