PharmaShots Interview: Iktos’ Sree Vadlamudi Shares Insight on the Role of AI in Drug Discovery

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PharmaShots Interview: Iktos’ Sree Vadlamudi Shares Insight on the Role of AI in Drug Discovery

PharmaShots Interview: Iktos’ Sree Vadlamudi Shares Insight on the Role of AI in Drug Discovery

In an interview with PharmaShots, Sree Vadlamudi, Vice president, Head of Business Development EU and RoW at Iktos, shared his views on the role of AI in shaping the pharma & biotech industry.


  • Sree spoke about the drug development process and how AI is contributing to gaining the productivity and changing the scenario in the drug development process
  • He emphasizes the role of Iktos and talks about the deals in this space. He also shared the upcoming plans of the company and how Iktos is emerging as a leader in AI
  • This interview gives a glance at Iktos’ work and deals and provides the information on booming AI discovery market

Pharmaceutical drug discovery and drug development is a lengthy and costly process with a small fraction of discovered drugs successfully reaching to the market1. Recent advancements in AI-driven drug discovery technology space, appears to be making contributions to productivity gains in drug discovery and development2.

AI is contributing to the reinvention of the drug discovery process opens up new avenues for researchers, and can help to accelerate timelines and reduce costs for a molecule to reach clinical trials by almost 30%.3

Smriti: As per the data, do you think the AI-drug discovery market is booming? What are your thoughts on market growth?

Sree: The use of AI is not only limited to drug discovery. It is expanding its use into diagnostics, earlier disease detection, intelligent symptoms checker, etc. AI has the potential to transform healthcare and does what humans do, but more efficiently, more quickly, and at a lower cost. In addition, AI is bringing disruptive change in drug design through fast, accurate & comprehensive chemical space navigation.

Some of the leading AI companies operating in the drug discovery space include Exscientia, Iktos, Atomwise, Insilico Medicine, Recursion Pharma, Benevolent AI.

As per the data from the Deal Forma database, rates of AI deals are accelerating Y-O-Y. We can see the trend in AI deals and statistics in the graph.


Leading global pharma companies are showing their trust in AI-driven drug discovery. For instance, Pfizer, Takeda and AstraZeneca lead the way by engaging in multiple partnerships with AI companies. Similar trends can be seen with other major players in this area such as Novartis, Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS), Roche, Janssen, Merck KGaA, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bayer, GSK, and Sanofi.       

‘’Bio-pharma organisations are accepting AI at an incredible pace. As per the report from research and markets, the AI-driven drug discovery segment will grow from almost $699.3M in 2020 to $2.895B+ in 2025. This leads to an annual growth rate of nearly 33%. Afterward, the annual growth rate is predicted to settle at just under 26% for a $9B+ market by 2030.4’’

Given the market trends and wider adaptation of AI by major pharmaceutical organisations globally, we can expect Y-O-Y growth and consolidation of AI companies.

Smriti: What are your views on combining AI with other complementary technologies? Do Iktos plan to expand it beyond drug design?”

Sree: “To start with, AI-driven drug discovery is not a holy grail on it’s own. We at Iktos firmly believe that AI has the potential to transform drug discovery process to achieve time and cost efficiencies, enhance molecular diversity and thereby improving the chances of clinical success. By combining AI with physics-based methods (for example accurate predictions of binding affinities), automation (robotics platform for synthesis and screening) could help to improve complex, iterative search and optimisation problems in drug design and discovery.

Iktos’s ambition is to make a difference in drug discovery by combining AI and Robotics. In 2021, Iktos received a large non-dilutive financing for building an AI-driven automated synthesis platform with robotics hardware solution. This closed loop drug discovery platform has the potential to drastically improve the design-make-test-analysis cycle times in drugs discovery.”


Iktos as an Emerging Leader in AI                

At Iktos, we have developed an innovative AI technology platform for drug design and discovery. Generative AI is taking off and a myriad of deep generative models have been reported in the scientific literature. Incorporated in 2016, Iktos has pioneered Generative AI work and stands at the forefront of AI-based generative chemistry by combining its internal R&D effort with a continuous benchmarking effort to incorporate new methods in our technology platform.

Today Iktos is a leading player in AI-based generative chemistry having delivered value in 50-plus real world research collaborations with some of the most eminent pharma companies globally.

Soon after inception, Iktos started its first collaboration project in 2017. An initial success and first real world validation of the technology was achieved in 2018 in a collaboration with Servier. In 2019, Iktos established its presence in North America by incorporating Iktos Inc. and secured seed funding, as well as non-dilutive finances to grow its AI for de novo drug design technology and software. In the same year, Iktos won its first client for Makya, Iktos SaaS generative AI software platform. In 2020, Iktos released Spaya, Iktos synthesis planning software, and made it available publicly for users to use and evaluate.

Iktos has developed its own HPC platform that enables to parallelize computation on GPU and CPU on demand, and can easily be scaled up to meet any computation needs. All Iktos technologies can also easily be deployed on collaborators virtual private cloud (VPC) either on AWS, Azure or Google if needed.

Iktos is on fast paced growth trajectory, in Q1’2022, the company has signed deals with multiple bio-pharma organisations: Teijin Pharma, Ono Pharma and Astrogen for small molecule drug discovery.

Smriti:  Iktos has announced three deals in Q1’22. Please could you share highlights of the announced deals?” What next can we expect in this fiscal year?

Sree: ‘’Yes, we started Q1’22 on a high note by announcing three deals in the Asia-Pac region.

In Jan 2022, we announced a research collaboration agreement with Astrogen, a leading biotech company in S.Korea, aimed at discovery of innovative small molecule pre-clinical drug candidates for Parkinson's disease.This is our first collaboration deal in S. Korea bio-pharma sector.

In March, 2022, Iktos and Ono Pharma announced a collaboration agreement where, Iktos will apply its de novo ligand and structure-based generative modelling technologies and software Makya™, its AI-based retrosynthesis analysis and planning tool Spaya™, and know-how complementing Ono’s drug discovery capabilities to expedite the identification of potential pre-clinical candidates and to identify additional novel chemical matter with suitable properties for undisclosed Ono’s drug discovery programmes. We are very pleased to collaborate with Ono Pharma as this is our first collaboration deal with a Japanese pharma company.

In April 2022, Iktos and Teijin Pharma announced a strategic collaboration agreement to co-develop new technology for small molecule drug discovery. Under the agreement, Iktos generative modelling technology will be implemented and applied to several Teijin Pharma’s small molecule drug discovery projects to expedite the identification of potential pre-clinical candidates.4

Iktos predominantly operates in the early-stage drug discovery sector with a hybrid services and software (SaaS) business model. Our typical customers are from pharma, biotech, agrochem and academic sectors. Since 2017, our technology has been tested and validated in several real-life projects with bio-pharma collaborators globally. For example, the company has collaborated twice with Merck KGaA, first in 2019 and then in 2020, for utilizing AI in New Drug Design6

In 2022 fiscal year, we are forecasting a strong commercial growth driven by strategic collaboration deals and strong commercial traction from our SaaS offerings Makya and Spaya.’’

Smriti: Can you give the technical background of your AI platform?”

Sree: “At Iktos, we have developed a proprietary, disruptive, AI-based generative modelling technology for ligand and structure-based de novo drug design, focusing on multi-parametric optimisation. Our proprietary technology is built upon the latest developments in deep learning algorithms for de novo drug design as well as AI-driven synthesis planning. Iktos is the only company offering state-of-the-art, ready-to-use generative modelling solutions with built-in synthetic accessibility for successful drug discovery projects.

Our generative modelling technology coupled with synthesis planning can be applied to the early stage drug discovery value chain ranging from hit generation or scaffold hopping pro- jects to lead generation and lead optimization. In a very short timeframe, we can design novel, diverse, druggable and synthesizable molecules, that are optimized to match the target product profile (TPP) of the project.

Iktos team of PhDs and Engineers are well equipped with the skills and resources needed to successfully deliver a drug discovery project, deliver solutions that fit users technical and security requirements, and support collaborators in the deployment, operation and use of our software.”

We have covered some high-profile deals announced by Iktos since its inception.7 The company has announced numerous deals with global bio-pharma companies and deals with eminent research institutions such as The Drug Discovery Unit Dundee, a-Star and SRI. The announced deals involve research collaborations, SaaS agreements and strategic technology development collaboration agreements.

We at PharmaShots are actively looking for more deals from Iktos and closely monitoring the space. Stay tuned with us for more update on Iktos and its AI-driven collaborations.


  1.  https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-05267-x
  2.  https://www.nature.com/articles/d41573-022-00025-1
  3.  https://www.medtechintelligence.com/feature_article/ai-in-healthcare-to-reinforce-drug-discovery-and-medtech-applications/
  4. https://apnews.com/press-release/business-wire/coronavirus-pandemic-technology-business-europe-health-42030f2790504b4888210703fd0c6440
  5. https://iktos.ai/
  6. https://www.clinicaltrialsarena.com/comment/big-pharma-ai-partnerships/
  7. https://iktos.ai/news-2/

Image Source: Canva

About Sree Vadlamudi: Sree is the Vice President, Head of Business Development EU and RoW. He leads strategic business development outreach, alliance management, marketing & communication activities at Iktos. Sree has a successful track record in Strategic Business Development, Technology Commercialisation and Alliance Management positions with increasing responsibility in the bio-pharma industry. Sree has been instrumental in securing and managing partnerships with biotechs and pharma as well as maximising the value of AI-based technology platforms and the growth of the business. Sree also held senior research management positions at biotechs and virtual biotechs. He holds PhD in Medicinal Chemistry, and MBA with merit from Lancaster Business School.


Smriti is a Senior Editor at PharmaShots. She is curious and very passionate about recent updates and developments in the life sciences industry. She covers Biopharma, MedTech, and Digital health segments along with different reports at PharmaShots. She can be contacted at smriti@pharmashots.com.

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