UK will build the world’s first fully-automated drug discovery facility expected to speed up production manyfold

Torjus Roberg
Follow Torjus
The facility will speed up production 10 times (Source: Rosalind Franklin Institute)

Business secretary Greg Clark announced today that the UK will build the world's first fully-automated drug discovery facility.

The new technology, which will be developed at the Rosalind Franklin Institute (RFI) in Oxfordshire, will speed up the production process of a drug 10 times compared to the current methods used.

The most significant innovation at the facility will be new instruments which will be used to observe interactions between drug candidates and target proteins.

Read more: Shield Therapeutics chairman steps down after year of plummeting shares

Adam Nelson, lead scientist for the project, said: “Currently, it's a rather conservative process – using a small number of building block types and a limited suite of reactions means we are only exploring a very small area of chemical space.”

“It costs around $2bn (£1.5bn) to bring a new drug to market because each new marketed drug you have to start around 50 drug discovery projects. It [the project] will have a unique design and harness robotics and AI to automate the discovery process. It will allow hundreds or thousands of candidate molecules to be investigated at a time.”

The RFI, which opened this year, is named after the pioneering x-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin who was a key person involved in the discovery of the DNA structure.

Ian Walmsey, chair of RFI's interim board, said: “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.”

Read more: Pharma firm Circassia bashed by shareholder vote against executive pay

Related articles