How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing Drug Discovery

Joseph Priestley Society
Thursday, March 23, 2023
1:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m. EDT (UTC -4)


Medicine for the Millions ad 1943

Detail of Dow Chemical Company’s “Medicine for the Millions!” ad, 1943.

Science History Institute

Drug discovery has always been a complex and multifaceted process that requires the integration of various disciplines such as biology, chemistry, and computer science. Today artificial intelligence is revolutionizing the way we discover and develop drugs, opening up new possibilities, unlocking insights that were once out of reach, and empowering us to see the invisible and make connections that were previously unknowable.

Our March Joseph Priestley Society virtual talk features experts on the forefront of how artificial intelligence is impacting drug discovery. Will machine learning and other technologies speed up the search for new drugs and make them cheaper and more effective? How will drug discovery be impacted by automation?

Join Hepion Pharmaceuticals’ Robert T. Foster and Patrick R. Mayo, and Lantern Pharma’s Panna Sharma, who will address these questions through a lively discussion moderated by JPS chair Maria L. Maccecchini, founder, president, and CEO of Annovis Bio.

This event is coproduced by the American Chemical Society as part of its ACS Webinars series. JPS talks are free but registration is required.

About the Panelists


Robert T. Foster headshot

Robert T. Foster.

Robert T. Foster first began working on cyclophilin drug development in 1988 and brings more than 30 years of pharmaceutical and biotech experience to Hepion. Prior to Hepion, he was CEO and founder of Ciclofilin Pharmaceuticals Inc., which merged with Hepion in 2016. Before that, he founded Isotechnika Pharma Inc. in 1993 and was its chair and CEO for approximately 21 years. During his tenure at Isotechnika, Foster discovered voclosporin, an immunosuppressive drug to treat autoimmune diseases.

In 2002 Foster structured a USD $215 million licensing deal, Canada’s largest at the time, for voclosporin for kidney transplant immunosuppression with Hoffman-La Roche (Basel, Switzerland). Later, he was founding CEO, and subsequently CSO, of Aurinia Pharma after it was acquired by Isotechnika in 2013. Voclosporin (Lupkynis™) was approved by the FDA for the treatment of lupus nephritis in January 2021, and subsequently also approved by the EMA and in the U.K. Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. (Japan) has licensed voclosporin for the treatment of lupus nephritis in the EU, Japan, U.K, Russia, Switzerland, Norway, Belarus, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Ukraine. Foster has raised approximately $750 million for pharmaceutical research.

Foster holds undergraduate degrees in chemistry and pharmacy and has a PharmD and a PhD in pharmaceutical sciences. He served as a tenured associate professor on the faculty of pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Alberta from 1988 to 1997. From 1990 to 1994, Foster was medical staff, scientific, and research associate in the Department of Laboratory Medicine at the Walter C. Mackenzie Health Sciences Centre. He has approximately 220 publications, including papers, abstracts, and book chapters, and is named as an inventor on over 170 patents.


Patrick R. Mayo headshot

Patrick R. Mayo.

Patrick R. Mayo began working on cyclophilin in 1983 and has 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. His work across all phases of drug development, from preclinical to Phase 4 post-marketing surveillance, has been instrumental in regulatory submissions including INDs and NDAs. He has direct hands-on expertise in pre-clinical and clinical pharmacology, drug discovery, population pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics (PK/PD), and physiologically based modelling.

Mayo’s work has focused on calcineurin inhibitors cyclosporine, tacrolimus, and voclosporin, an analogue of cyclosporine. He began his career in the pharmaceutical industry as a clinical research organization kineticist, where he worked extensively on cyclosporine, including the reformulation of cyclosporine, Neoral™. Most recently, Mayo published on the population PK/PD of tacrolimus and mycophenolic acid in renal allograft patients and provided population PK modeling and simulation support for Aurinia Pharmaceuticals Phase 2 voclosporin study in lupus nephritis. He also provided PK analyses of early cyclophilin inhibitors developed by Ciclofilin Pharmaceuticals. In addition, Mayo was director of clinical pharmacology for Isotechnika during the Phase 1 through Phase 3 work on voclosporin in renal transplantation and plaque psoriasis.

Mayo obtained his PhD in pharmacokinetics from the University of Alberta, specializing in the effect of disease states on PK/PD relationships. He holds a BSc degree in pharmacy from the University of Alberta, where he worked as a clinical pharmacist in critical care, palliative care, and renal transplant. Mayo continues to provide pharmacometric analyses via Cogitare Analytics and has authored and coauthored numerous scientific papers, abstracts, and book chapters.


Panna Sharma headshot

Panna Sharma.

Panna Sharma is president, CEO, and a board member of Lantern Pharma Inc., a clinical-stage oncology biotech using artificial intelligence and genomics to innovate the rescue, revitalization, and development of precision cancer therapeutics.

Prior to joining Lantern in 2018, Sharma was the president and CEO of Cancer Genetics, Inc., a provider of genomic and immune-based cancer diagnostics and therapy development services. In his capacity as CEO at CGIX, he raised over $100 million in the public and private markets and grew the company from 25 employees in New Jersey to over 250 employees globally across multiple continents. Sharma took CGIX public in 2013 and acquired four companies globally that help CGIX deliver on its mission to help personalize cancer treatment. Prior to CGIX, Panna founded TSG Partners.

Sharma began his career as an industry analyst for financial services and technology companies and was part of the management team that took the digital strategy and e-business company iXL public. He attended Boston University in the University Professors Program and focused his studies on philosophy of science, neural networks, and artificial intelligence.

About the Series

The Joseph Priestley Society (JPS) promotes a deeper understanding of science, technology, and industry, with an emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship. Speakers are leaders from a wide variety of large and small chemical companies and the financial, consulting, and academic communities.

For more information about this event, please contact [email protected].