BenevolentAI’s Artificial Intelligence has been used to discover a new drug that has had positive results in slowing down motor neuron disease.

More an more companies are turning to Artificial Intelligence in the hope that the new technology will be able to help improve our lives and general healthcare. Companies like Philips for instance have been using AI extensively in the healthcare sector. UK-based AI start-up, BenevolentAI is another one of those who are actively producing AI for healthcare.

BenevolentAI recently teamed up with the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN), which is part of the University of Sheffield, in order to help them test a drug that might be able to slow down the process of motor neuron disease. BenevolentAI’s algorithm proposed a potential candidate they could test the new drug on, and it yielded positive results.

The whole aim of this collaboration was to see whether the drug could actually help slow down the onset of motor neuron disease by preventing the degradation of neurons and muscles. This is also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), which became more widely know after the social media campaign – the ice bucket challenge.

This was started in order to help raise money for research into curing people who are inflicted with this horrible neurodegenerative disease. ALS causes muscle weakness, paralysis, and finally ending in respiratory failure and death. This all tends to happen within two to five years of the diagnosis.

SITraN tested the drug that BenevolantAI’s algorithm had proposed and found that it can acctually prevent the death of motor neurons in the patient cells. It also delayed the onset of the disease in what’s referred to as the “gold standard of model ALS”.

However, this new drug has yet to be put into clinical trials, which is the next step in being able to tell once and for all whether it will be suitable for further development.

SITraN’s Dr Richard Mead said, “This is an exciting development in our research for a treatment for ALS. BenevolentAI came to us with some newly identified compounds discovered by their technology – two of which were new to us in the field and, following this research, are now looking very promising.  Our plan now is to conduct further detailed testing and continue to quickly progress towards a potential treatment for ALS.”

In terms of AI in healthcare and drug development, BenevolentAI’s technology has gone a long way in demonstrating the huge benefits it can have in medical research, and can even save lives.