The Future of Drug Discovery: Insilico Medicine's Dr. Feng Ren on Why He Left Big Pharma for AI
After over 11 years in drug discovery and development at GSK and another three as Senior Vice President of Medicilon leading their drug discovery service, Dr. Feng Ren knew big pharma. He also knew that when it came to accelerating drug discovery past the roadblocks of long timeline, high cost, and low success rate, another model was needed.
And he wanted to be a part of that new frontier.

In late 2020, Ren began looking for an AI-driven drug discovery company where he could make an impact.
"I talked to several companies. Insilico was the best one. Insilico has developed AI software including PandaOmics for target identification and Chemistry42 for compound generation in their end-to-end AI drug discovery platform PHARMA.AI. This AI platform has been validated by internal programs and external collaborations. People can test it. This is really cool and unique."
Feng Ren, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer of Insilico Medicine.
In Feb. 2021, Dr. Ren became Chief Scientific Officer and Head of Research and Development at Insilico and has since grown a team of 70 scientists in Shanghai across a range of specialties, including biology, bioinformatics, medicinal chemistry, computer aided design and drafting, preclinical, and clinical expertise. This team discovers novel targets using PandaOmics and designs novel molecules for those targets utilizing Insilico's Chemistry42 platform. The most promising molecules — based on successful scores across a series of measures — are then selected for synthesis and test through cells, tissues, and animals towards Investigational New Drug (IND) applications and then human studies. At the far end of Insilico's pipeline is InClinico — its AI platform for predicting the outcome of clinical trials.
Winning the Race Against Pharma
With its end-to-end AI-driven drug discovery system, Dr. Ren says Insilico is capable of producing promising drug candidates at a pace that outstrips pharma's years-long timeline, at a fraction of the cost, and without sacrificing quality.

During the past year, Insilico has delivered seven preclinical candidates designed using its AI platform targeting fibrosis, cancer, anemia, and inflammatory bowel disease. The team discovered and developed the lead drug for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis with a novel mechanism of action in just 18 months, bringing it to phase 1 clinical trial just a year later.

With other drug candidates well on their way, Dr. Ren will soon lead a team dedicated to clinical trials. "The speed is really fast," he says, "and I'm looking forward to how we can continue to apply the AI platform to make it even more efficient."
Pharma Turns to Insilico's AI Platform
Dr. Ren isn't the only pharma veteran taking an interest in AI. Since PandaOmics and Chemistry42 were commercialized during the second half of 2020, numerous pharma companies have licensed Insilico's technology or formed partnerships, including Fosun Pharmaceuticals, PAQ Therapeutics, Huadong Medicine, Arvinas, Westlake Pharma, and GenFleet Therapeutics.

"They saw our success in AI-powered drug discovery and want to utilize not only our AI tools but our very efficient drug discovery team," Dr. Ren says.
About the Author
Brita Belli is the Head of PR for Insilico Medicine, a company that is transforming drug discovery with the power of AI. Prior to Insilico, she led communications for the Yale School of Medicine Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.Her writing has been featured in the New York Times, National Geographic, MSN.com, and Alternet. She's also the author of The Autism Puzzle: Connecting the Dots Between Environmental Toxins and Rising Autism Rates (Seven Stories Press) as well as a digital playbook, Elevating Women in Entrepreneurship, sponsored by JP Morgan Chase and InBIA.
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