Sanofi offers Aqemia up to $140m to find new drugs with AI

6 Dec 2023

Image: © JHVEPhoto/

Aqemia will use its AI-powered platform for novel drug discovery, which will then be commercialised by Sanofi.

Pharma company Sanofi has entered into a research collaboration with French drug discovery start-up Aqemia to boost the discovery of small molecule drug candidates.

Aqemia will use its AI-powered platform to design novel drug molecules that could be used for various therapies. The company will receive up to $140m, which includes an upfront payment and further payments if certain research milestones are achieves. The companies have not disclosed how much will be paid upfront.

The start-up says its platform uses a mix of generative AI and quantum physics algorithms to tackle its drug discovery projects. Aqemia claims this platform differs from other AI platforms, which require experimental clinical data to train on.

The company said it generates its own data for the AI platform by performing “highly efficient physics-based calculations” at the beginning of its projects.

“This whole new step is about scaling our respective expertise to multiple projects and supporting Sanofi in discovering novel chemical matter at scale with our unique technology – including on difficult projects with limited chemical data upfront and hard issues like selectivity,” said Aqemia CEO and co-founder Maximilien Levesque.

“We are passionately committed to discovering innovative drugs in close alliance with Sanofi’s experts.”

Under the agreement, Aqemia will design the novel drug molecules and Sanofi will then use its global R&D resources to develop various therapeutic drugs. Sanofi will be responsible for all wet lab research, development and commercialisation activities.

“This new partnership with Aqemia is part of an ongoing story that began with our French teams three years ago,” said Sanofi’s VP of R&D in France, Jacques Volckmann. “During this period, we have followed with attention and enthusiasm the development of their technology that combines theoretical physics and generative AI.

“We have been able to concretely assess the interest in some of our research projects during our previous collaborations.”

Brian O’Connor – who leads quality organisation at London-based Orchard Therapeutics – spoke to in October about trends in the pharma sector and the “major impact” AI is having on the discovery of novel drugs.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic