Cutting-edge facility to use AI and develop new drugs for clinical testing within weeks

The new Rosalind Franklin Institute is investing £6m in ground-breaking initiatives that will disrupt the drug development process.
By Leontina Postelnicu
03:22 PM
Model of the Rosalind Franklin Institute.

A ground-breaking facility that will harness Artificial Intelligence to develop new drugs for clinical testing within weeks is to be opened through investment from the new £103m Rosalind Franklin Institute (RFI).

Funded by the government through UK Research and Innovation, the RFI will use advanced technologies such as AI and robotics to transform the drug discovery process and create new treatments for patients.

The RFI will invest £6m to set up the new cutting-edge facility using AI and lead two other initiatives that will see the institute work on creating:

  • The ‘world’s most advanced real-time video camera’ to develop cures for some of the most lethal forms of cancer
  •  A project that will enable fully-automated hands-free molecular discovery to produce new drugs up to ten times faster.

“The new Rosalind Franklin Institute will lead a revolution in drug development and diagnosis to improve the lives of millions of patients,” said Business Secretary Greg Clark earlier this month.

Rosalind Franklin Institute - Closing the loop on drug discovery from Rosalind Franklin Institute on Vimeo.

The RFI will operate on a ‘hub and spoke’ model, with the central facility located at the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire and several spokes distributed throughout its partner network of universities, which includes:

  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Edinburgh
  • Imperial College London
  • University of Leeds
  • King's College London
  • University of Manchester
  • University of Oxford
  • University of Southampton
  • University College London. 

It is expected to drive growth in the UK life sciences sector and bridge the gap between academia, research and pharma or SMEs, with the Harwell hub set to host 150 researchers.

“The RFI will pioneer disruptive technologies and new ways of working to revolutionise our understanding of biology, leading to new diagnostics, new drugs, and new treatments for millions of patients worldwide. 

“It will bring university researchers together with industry experts in one facility and embrace high-risk, adventurous research, that will transform the way we develop new medicines,” said Professor Ian Walmsey, University of Oxford Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research & Innovation and Chair of the RFI’s Interim Board.

This week, Prime Minister Theresa May outlined plans for the UK to lead the AI revolution in healthcare, with technology set to be one of the key areas for the new 10-year NHS plan.

“We have the opportunity to lead the world in the use of data and technology to prevent illness, not just treat it, to diagnose conditions before symptoms occur and to deliver personalised treatment informed not just by general understanding of disease, but by your own data, including your genetic makeup,” the PM said during a speech at the Royal Free in London on Monday (18 June).