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Welcome to drugmaking in era of AI, synthetic biology

Brett Brune
By Brett Brune Editor in Chief, Smart Manufacturing

We no longer need to accept that it takes a decade to create and make a safe and effective vaccine—thanks in part to smart manufacturing. The modernization of drugmaking is here, as described in this issue’s cover story.

Contributing Editor Anastasia Ustinova focused her reporting squarely on companies that are showing digital strength, including:

  • Moderna, which describes itself as the first biotech company “born in the Cloud.” It embraces a cornucopia of innovations, including automation and AI/machine learning. As a result, the 10-year-old drugmaker is able to conduct 1,000 experiments with drug candidates simultaneously.
  • FenoLogica Biosciences, a startup using high-throughput analysis and machine learning to identify the effects genes have on cell phenotypes. “Synthetic biology technologies are empowering advances in biotech R&D across the entire industry,” CEO Sean MacLeod said. “Recent advances in protein synthesis and genome editing have created the opportunity to rapidly accelerate biotech innovation, transforming the approach to vaccine research, pharmaceutical discovery and manufacturing.”
  • Honeywell, which helps biotech firms prepare manufacturing automation designs, leveraging the power of Cloud, batch software running in the process controller and remote-asset management.
  • Atos, which is collaborating with Siemens on a cost- and time-saving digital twin solution for pharma manufacturing.
  • Insilico Medicine, which is leveraging modern AI techniques of generative adversarial networks and generative reinforcement learning to rapidly discover novel molecular targets in a variety of diseases and design molecules with the desired properties. The firm uncovered novel small molecule inhibitors for the key COVID-19 protein and started pre-clinical development.

Don’t miss Ustinova’s stellar piece, available in text and audio (

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