How Drug Development Guru Mark Eller From AI/ML Skeptic To Supporter

Episode Summary

How does an expert in pharmacokinetics, whose only exposure to computers was taking one semester of programming in college to meet a language requirement, become an advocate for the new AI-driven style of drug discovery? This week Harry finds out from Mark Eller, who helped to invent Allegra at Hoechst Marion Roussel (now Sanofi), spent 12 years at Jazz Pharmaceuticals; and is now senior vice president of research and development at twoXAR, an AI-driven drug discovery startup.

Episode Notes

How does an expert in pharmacokinetics, whose only exposure to computers was taking one semester of programming in college to meet a language requirement, become an advocate for the new AI-driven style of drug discovery? This week Harry finds out from Mark Eller, who helped to invent Allegra at Hoechst Marion Roussel (now Sanofi), spent 12 years at Jazz Pharmaceuticals, and is now senior vice president of research and development at twoXAR, an AI-driven drug discovery startup.

In our previous episode from August 31, 2020, Harry spoke with twoXAR founder and CEO Andrew A. Radin, who confessed to being a computer nerd and lamented that it’s been hard finding colleagues who are willing and able to help him bridge the gap between software and biology. He told the story of Mark Eller, who started out as a consultant at twoXAR but ended up telling Radin “I want you to offer me a job.”

Eller told Radin that the twoXAR project had finally convinced him that AI is good for more than just winning games of chess or Go and that it can also be used to help drug developers predict which new molecules will be effective against specific diseases, even if their mechanisms of action are unfamiliar.  “He’s gone from highly skeptical to highly supportive,” says Radin. “I think that transformation is happening throughout the industry.” This week, Harry gets the whole story of Eller’s transformation, from Eller himself.

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