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‘AI and bioinformatics holds the future of personalized medicine’[INTERVIEW] Tyson Kim, CEO of Syntekabio
  • By Lee Han-soo
  • Published 2018.04.12 09:11
  • Updated 2018.04.13 14:33
  • comments 0
Tyson Kim, CEO of Syntekabio, emphasizes the importance of AI drug discovery and bioinformatics platforms and its use in drug development, during an interview with Korea Biomedical Review at his office in Seoul, Thursday.

“Genetic big data will revolutionize drug development.”

Tyson Kim, CEO of Syntekabio and the front-runner in converging drug development and information technology (IT), said so. Kim was explaining how big data and artificial intelligence (AI) will change the current drug development procedure.

Kim, a graduate of Inha University School of Medicine, has had a unique journey to lead one of the most innovative biotech firms in Korea. After finishing his internship at Kyunghee University Hospital, Kim took off his medical gown to join MSD Korea’s edit to Medical Affair Division as a medical advisor instead of becoming a doctor. He went on to work at the company for four years before joining Syntekabio as its vice president in 2015. A year later, the company promoted Kim to the chief executive officer after witnessing his business development capabilities.

Syntekabio is a company that utilizes genomic big data to usher in a tailored medical service era. It uses bioinformatics, which includes its in-silico platform, a virtual clinical trial system using computer simulation techniques for the development of new drugs. The system can also algorithmically identify disease-related and mutational potentials in genes, as well as recommending a tailored medication to patients.

Kim stressed the company could significantly improve the success rate and change the conventional drug development method by combining AI and big genomic data analysis technology to discover the significant mutation algorithms of genes.

“A new drug development normally takes 12 to 15 years,” Kim said. “When I worked at MSD, I learned that reduction of mere three months from the development phase could save upwards of 300 billion won ($283.4 million) for the company, these savings were particularly acute when the drug ended up being a blockbuster and if the company fails phase 3 clinical trials they normally have to layoff up to 3,000 employees.”

However, with the success rate of the current cohort based drug development only standing at 1 to 2 percent, Kim believes it is essential for the industry to move onto the next era, which will revolve around AI drug discovery and bioinformatics platforms.

“The drug development industry using cohort study has reached its limit,” he said. “Major multi-national companies still selling drugs even after their patent expires is proof of such limits as it shows that the new drugs are not coming out on the market.”

Such facts prove that personalized medication using technologies from the Fourth Industrial revolution such as AI and big data will become the next phase in drug development, he added.

Kim also expects that the personalized medication age can help those excluded from the current cohort system study.

“Bioinformatics platform along with the company’s Personal Genome Map (Pmap), which contains genome big data analysis on various diseases such as cancer and rare diseases, can help solve illnesses that are currently untreatable,” he said. “It can also help patients that were left out of the cohort group for various reasons such as not fitting the profile of the clinical trial.”

To realize the company’s dream, Syntekabio is currently using its two platforms – in-silico and Pmap -- with Kainos Medicine in developing a treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

“We received hundreds of Parkinson’s disease patient gene data from various organizations such as the Michael J. Fox Foundation, Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in France and the NIH in the U.S.,” Kim said. “We analyzed the genes that cause Parkinson's disease and have contributed to the development of the new therapeutic agent by Kainos Medicine.”

Kainos is currently preparing to initiate phase 2 clinical trials in June, Kim noted.

The company has also signed an agreement with CJ Healthcare to co-develop a new immunotherapy using AI in December of last year.

Syntekabio will handle the drug development process, including virtual discovery and lead compounds discovery, while CJ Healthcare will be responsible for clinical trials and commercialization.

With regards to expanding its cloud-based genomic big data analysis, the company has signed a strategic alliance agreement with Naver Business Platform (NBP).

“I believe in the future, all clinical trials – non-clinical, pre-clinical, phase 1, 2 and 3 – will all converge into a single form by using the AI drug discovery and bioinformatics platforms,” he added.

Kim emphasized that to witness the future Korea, it needs to focus on completing the tailored treatment field instead of trying to compete with other foreign countries.

“Korea is a small country, and I believe we should be focusing on where the end game is rather than trying to compete with large countries such as the U.S., EU, and China,” he said. “If we can all focus on reaching our goals, it is not impossible for Korea to come up with the next multinational pharmaceutical company such as Merck, Pfizer, Roche, and Novartis.“


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