AION Labs, Biotech Innovation Lab Launched by Top Pharma, Tech and Investment Leaders

14 October 2021 | Thursday | News

First-of-its-Kind AI/Pharma and Computational Biology Innovation Lab Appoints Former Senior Pharma Executive as CEO and Senior Computational Scientist as CTO German BioMed X Institute Introduced as Strategic Partner
Image Source : Public Domain

Image Source : Public Domain

AION Labs, a first-of-its-kind innovation lab spearheading the adoption of AI technologies and computational science to solve therapeutic challenges, today announced its official launch and the opening of its international headquarters.

The alliance of four leading pharmaceutical companies - AstraZenecaMerckPfizer and Teva – and two leaders in the hi-tech and biotech investment sphere , respectively - Amazon Web Services Inc. (AWS) and Israel Biotech Fund (IBF) – who have come together with the aim of building groundbreaking AI and computational ventures that will leverage the cloud to transform how new therapies are discovered and developed. The launch of this consortium of global leaders follows the winning of a government tender to establish an Innovation Lab in December 2020 after the Israel Innovation Authority identified life sciences as a vital area for growth potential and investment.

AION Labs will create and invest in early-stage start-up teams focused on AI and computational biology in drug discovery and development, offering each of them top-notch resources and mentorship while working closely with them to develop new technologies that meet the most acute and significant challenges in the pharmaceutical industry. Each start-up will harness the power of artificial intelligence, and 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 also announced today that Mati Gill, a former senior executive at Teva Pharmaceuticals, has been appointed CEO of the lab, and former head of computational biology at Compugen and science operations at CytoReason and principal scientist at MSD, Yair Benita, Ph.D., has been appointed CTO.

"We are excited to launch our new Innovation Lab for new drug and device discoveries," said Mati Gill, CEO of AION Labs. "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."

In addition, AION Labs has announced its strategic partnership with BioMed X, an independent biomedical research institute based in Heidelberg, Germany. BioMed X has a strong track record of seeding 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 the brightest research talents and ideas, will serve as the R&D engine to propel AION Lab's venture creation model.

"We are excited to extend our successful innovation model to Israel," said Christian Tidona, Founder and Managing Director of BioMed X. "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."

AION Labs will include both a wet lab, where biomedical research will be performed, and a cloud-based computational lab environment, focusing on the development of new algorithms and computational methods with the aim of accelerating the discovery and development of potential new therapies.

Both will be under the guidance of top senior researchers and experts from AION Labs' partners.

Quotes from Founding Partners:


"AION Labs is an excellent example of what Pfizer seeks to help build through collaboration within biopharma and across industries: a program with the potential to accelerate the development of meaningful breakthroughs that could change patients' lives," said Uwe Schoenbeck, Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer for Emerging Science & Innovation, Pfizer. "We look forward to playing a pivotal role in AION's pursuit of innovation."


Jim Weatherall, Vice President, Data Science and AI, R&D, AstraZeneca said: "Data, analytics and AI are already starting to transform the way we discover and develop new medicines and I believe we are only at the tip of the iceberg in terms of its promise. Through AION Labs we have the potential to solve some of the greatest R&D challenges and find new and better ways to discover, test and accelerate the potential medicines of tomorrow. I look forward to helping form the challenges and select and mentor the companies that will enter the Lab."


Joern-Peter Halle, Head of Global Research at the Healthcare Business Sector of Merck said: "The AION Labs build on our longstanding and successful investments in innovation coming out of Israel. We are excited to work with the partners to create tangible value in applying AI to drug discovery and development in the biopharmaceutical industry and make virtual drug discovery a reality."


"Teva is truly excited to collaborate with top pharma, high-tech and investment companies to assemble this unique biotech venture to develop novel therapeutic treatments," said Dr. Eran Harary, Global Head of Specialty R&D at Teva Pharmaceuticals. "The way we discover and develop new drugs is undergoing transformation. AI technologies and cross-industry collaborations will play an increasingly significant role in revolutionizing the way we address unmet patient needs. We are especially proud to continue our innovative work with the Israeli healthcare and biotech ecosystem and look forward to seeing the fruits of this new collaboration," added Dr. Harary.


“The launch of AION Labs will provide an opportunity for the healthcare and life sciences industry to uncover new ways to reduce the time and cost for discovery, facilitate open collaboration and interoperability, and ultimately improve patients’ health outcomes. We look forward to supporting AION Labs startups with expertise and the breadth and depth of AWS’s secure, reliable, and scalable cloud services to help tackle some of the biggest R&D challenges in drug discovery and development,” said Dan Sheeran, Director of Healthcare and Life Sciences at Amazon Web Services. 


"We are thrilled to be part of this first of its kind innovation lab led by an outstanding group of international pharma and tech companies" said Ido Zairi, Founder & Managing Partner of IBF. "The lab's dedication to ameliorating the biotech industry by developing cutting-edge technologies and solutions and embedding them in pharma aligns with IBF's goals."


Dror Bin, CEO of the Israel Innovation Authority: "The Innovation Authority congratulates the companies involved in the establishment of this innovation lab as part of the Innovation Authority's strategy to develop an ecosystem of researchers, entrepreneurs, and companies and the growing field of Bio-Convergence for innovative and disruptive technologies relating to the future of medicine. Fusing the world of biology with various disciplines of software in which Israel has global leadership will lead to the creation of cutting-edge companies and a globally innovative ecosystem."


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