The research, conducted in partnership with Eli Lilly, who own baricitinib, includes data studying the dual basis of baricitinib's effect on patients with bilateral COVID-19 pneumonia who presented with severe disease. This provides further validation of BenevolentAI's AI-derived hypothesis of the previously unknown anti-viral activity effect of baricitinib, in addition to its predicted effects on reducing the cytokine storm. When treated with baricitinib, hospitalised COVID-19 patients showed improvement in cough, fever, and a reduction in inflammatory markers and SARS-CoV-2 viral load, data that has been replicated elsewhere in single-arm studies. The results of randomised trials, including the recently initiated global placebo-controlled study, are expected in the next few months.
In early February, the BenevolentAI team published its research finding that an oral, once‐daily medicine, baricitinib, normally used to treat adult rheumatoid arthritis (RA), may be useful in both reducing viral propagation in cells, and to mitigate the cytokine signalling seen in the hyper‐inflammatory stage of the disease. Since these findings were first published in The Lancet and The Lancet Infectious Diseases, baricitinib has been administered to patients in more than 12 clinical trials worldwide, including large global trials by the NIAID and Eli Lilly. Following the initiation of clinical testing in April, baricitinib has been used in investigator-led trials as a therapy in more than 800 patients with positive preliminary results.
Peter Richardson, VP Pharmacology at BenevolentAI commented: "We are pleased that our AI-assisted discovery of baricitinib as a therapy for COVID-19 has shown such positive results and are optimistic that similar outcomes will be seen in the ongoing randomised trials of this drug. The speed with which the drug entered clinical trials reflects the urgency of this outbreak and the significance of AI and global networks in facilitating the discovery of treatments and their potential impact on patients."
"This positive experimental data is an encouraging step in learning more about the impact of baricitinib on patients,"said Patrik Jonsson, Lilly senior vice president and president of Lilly Bio-Medicines."Lilly remains committed to fighting this global pandemic, and we look forward to seeing further results from the studies that are underway across the world."
Professor Justin Stebbing from Imperial College, London, who has been collaborating and leading on this work between Eli Lilly, BenevolentAI, hospitals in Northern Italy, Singapore and the Karolinska Institute added, "This study represents rapid repurposing from AI to the laboratory to a potential bedside therapeutic and supports the testing of baricitinib in randomised controlled trials in COVID‐19 patients. I am looking forward to seeing the results of the ACTT-II trial and the Lilly placebo-controlled trial, as well as further molecular and clinical research validating the AI-driven drug repurposing hypothesis to treat COVID-19, and other diseases in the future too."
Baroness Joanna Shields, CEO of BenevolentAI said "The recent surge of critically ill patients with COVID-19 in regional hotspots illustrates the need for scientists and technologists to collaborate and explore all avenues of potential treatment until vaccines are readily available. Our team at BenevolentAI published an AI-derived hypothesis of baricitinib's dual mechanism of action against COVID-19, and along with our partners at Eli Lilly, Karolinska and clinicians on the front lines have now released data showing successful outcomes in the initial patients treated with baricitinib."
BenevolentAI creates and applies AI and machine learning to transform the way medicines are discovered and developed. Benevolent integrates its technology into every step of the drug discovery process from hypothesis generation to early-stage clinical development. BenevolentAI is headquartered in London with a research facility in Cambridge (UK) and further offices in New York. BenevolentAI has active R&D drug programmes in disease areas such as ALS, Ulcerative Colitis and Sarcopenia and has research and commercial collaborations with AstraZeneca and Novartis.