Artificial intelligence identifies existing drugs that may reduce sight loss from macular degeneration

16 April 19

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Press Office

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The initial results from an artificial intelligence project show a number of existing drugs have the potential to reduce sight loss from age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of sight loss.

Action Against AMD, a research collaboration formed by four UK sight loss charities (Fight for Sight, Blind Veterans UK, the Macular Society and Scottish War Blinded), partnered with artificial intelligence company BenevolentAI to carry out the research.

BenevolentAI used its ‘Benevolent Platform’ to comprehensively review and understand the millions of scientific papers, clinical trials information, and additional datasets relating to age-related macular degeneration with a view to identifying potential gene targets and treatments.

The research identified seven existing drugs - either already in development or being used to treat other conditions - that have the potential to be repurposed to treat macular degeneration. In addition the analysis identified new gene targets for investigation.

Action Against AMD will now be taking the insight from the project to identify which drugs and gene targets are a priority for further investigation.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of sight loss and can result in complete loss of central vision, with an estimated prevalence of 196 million people worldwide. There are currently no approved treatments for the 95% of patients with early and ‘dry AMD’, although there are treatments for the 5% of patients with ‘wet AMD’ caused by new blood vessel growth - if caught early enough.

Dr Neil Ebenezer, Director of Research, Policy and Innovation, said: “Age-related macular degeneration can have a devastating impact on the vision and lives of patients with the condition, so applying the techniques of Artificial Intelligence to rapidly identify potential drugs that could be repurposed to treat this condition is very exciting.”

Dr Wen Hwa Lee, Chief Executive for Action Against AMD said: ‘It’s really promising that we have identified current drugs that may have a positive effect on macular degeneration. Our next step will be to confirm which of these drugs have the potential to slow progression of the disease and reduce sight loss for people with this condition.”

Dr Jackie Hunter, Board Director at BenevolentAI commented: “It has been a very productive partnership with Action Against AMD and we are delighted to have contributed some promising new research in age-related macular degeneration. I very much look forward to seeing the results of this research as it is developed further by Action Against AMD”.

Read more about our macular degeneration research

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