5 things to know in life sciences: Week of Oct. 10

This week, we look at collaboration arrangements in the areas of artificial intelligence and cancer treatment. We also highlight a retina scan that can predict heart disease and a digital treatment of lazy eye. Finally, we look at a pre-clinical biotech company that has raised $386 million in less than one year.

Each week we highlight five things affecting the life sciences industry. Here’s the latest.

Illumina, a California-based biotech company focused on DNA sequencing, announced a collaboration agreement with a goal of using AI to assist with drug discovery. Illumina is currently using two internally developed AI tools. These tools will be used by AstraZeneca’s Centre for Genomics Research in combination with AI-based solutions developed by AstraZeneca. If the first phases of this collaboration are successful, the companies may seek a more robust arrangement.

Researchers at St George’s Hospital Medical School, part of the University of London, has published a new study showing that their AI program can detect cardiovascular disease by looking at a picture from the back of your eye. The program looks at the healthiness of the blood vessels to make its prediction.

NovaSight has been granted approval for their digital treatment of amblyopia, known as lazy eye. Typically, children wear a patch covering their strong eye to correct the issue. NovaSight has developed special red-blue glasses that a child wears while watching their choice of video. Relying on eye-tracking technology, the system automatically blurs the image for the strong eye, mimicking the benefit a patch provides.

Merck exercised an option to acquire joint rights to a cancer vaccine under development through a collaboration between the two companies. The companies will share equally in profits and costs from the vaccine and will both have roles in marketing and development. Results from a trial of the vaccine in melanoma patients are expected to be announced by the end of the year.

Odyssey Therapeutics, a biotech company based in Cambridge, Mass., closed a $218 million Series A financing in December 2021. The company announced this week that it had followed that up with another major private financing that brought in an additional $168 million. The company is in the research and development stage and currently has nine pre-clinical programs. The most recent round was led by General Catalyst, with several other large institutional investors participating.

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