Poolbeg Pharma uses AI to identify potential drug targets for flu treatment

Biopharmaceutical company hails work with CytoReason as ‘significant breakthrough’

Biopharmaceutical company Poolbeg Pharma said it has successfully used artificial intelligence to identify a number of potential drug targets in the treatment of influenza, dramatically reducing the time taken to previously do so.

Poolbeg hailed the work with CytoReason as a “significant breakthrough”. The companies have been working together since March 2022, with Poolbeg combining its unique disease progression data from influenza human challenge trials and CytoReason’s repositories of curated disease data, analysing the data using the AI-led platform.

Poolbeg noted the data set had previously identified drug targets, specifically p38 MAP kinase which Poolbeg’s POLB 001 treatment has proved effective in targeting, but used manual analysis that took several years. Using AI, that was cut to 15 months, and multiple targets were identified. The analysis also backed up the POLB 001 treatment programme by independently confirming the significance of the p38 MAP kinase pathway in influenza.

“Our collaboration with CytoReason has put Poolbeg at the forefront of AI drug discovery,” said Poolbeg Pharma chief executive Jeremy Skillington. “CytoReason’s deep interrogation of the uniquely rich data derived from human challenge trials has [deepened] our knowledge of influenza, resulting in the identification of multiple novel influenza drug targets. There is a significant unmet need for new and better treatments for vulnerable patients with influenza and this is a major milestone in the delivery of new therapies that can improve patient outcomes and global health.”


The company is now exploring how it can further develop the novel drug targets.

This is the second successful AI programme for Poolbeg; previously the company used it to identify potential new drug candidates for RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist