Using AI in the journey to advance a cure for blindness

Last year we entered a partnership with Action Against AMD* to find treatments and a potential cure for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in the UK, and most developed countries.

In the UK, more than 600,000 people currently have late stage AMD, and this is set to hit 700,000 by next year and to double by 2050 as our population continues to age. There are currently no approved treatments for the 95% of patients with early and ‘dry AMD’, although there are treatments for the 5% of patients with ‘wet AMD’ caused by new blood vessel growth - if caught early enough. This means diagnosis and treatment is essential for reducing the risk of severe vision loss linked with the condition.

Through this collaboration, Action Against AMD were able to access our AI platform to review and understand scientific papers, clinical trial information, images, formulas, patents and additional data sets relating to AMD. Our AI was used to carry out complex reasoning to create a new understanding of the disease, learn, explore, create and translate what it learnt from this vast volume of information to pin-point important research areas, new ways of preventing AMD and potential treatments.

And the initial results now released from this project are promising. A first look at the results shows that a number of existing drugs have the potential to reduce sight loss. The research identified seven existing drugs - either already in development or being used to treat other conditions - that have the potential to be repurposed to treat macular degeneration. The analysis also identified new gene targets for interrogation.

Action Against AMD will now be taking these insights to identify which drugs and gene targets are a priority for further investigation. Their next step will be to confirm which of these drugs have the possibility to hopefully slow progression of the disease and reduce sight loss for people living across the world with AMD.

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