Photo of Jian Ma

Biotechnology & medicine

Jian Ma

Building an AI-powered Intelligent Drug Discovery and Development platform

Year Honored


Founded in 2014 by a group of quantum physicists at MIT, XtalPi is a computation-driven pharmaceutical R&D technology company that focuses on addressing the longstanding research challenges in key aspects of drug discovery and development. Its cutting-edge technologies, innovative solutions, and diverse applications across the pharmaceutical value chain have helped it gain industry approval and establish strategic partnerships with top international pharmaceutical companies.

Ma is the co-founder and CEO of XtalPi. The company is focused on integrating quantum physics, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing technologies to provide new and improved research methods and solutions as key steps in drug discovery and pre-clinical research to significantly improve the efficiency, accuracy, and success rate of pharmaceutical research and development.

Ma and his team developed the Intelligent Digital Drug Discovery and Development (ID4) platform, which leverages tightly interwoven quantum physics, computational chemistry, artificial intelligence, and machine learning algorithms as well as large-scale high-performance cloud computing. The ID4 platform offers a variety of innovative pharmaceutical research technologies, including a drug small-molecule general force field, customized proprietary force fields, crystal free energy predictions, free energy perturbation calculations, and several other important technical methods, including the analysis of the crystal structure of electron microscopes, to improve the drug development process.

XtalPi is offering a variety of services in drug solid-state research and development, drug discovery and design, as well as customized artificial intelligence model development. It has served more than 40 top pharmaceutical companies, such as Pfizer, and accelerated the research and development of over 100 drug pipelines.

According to Ma, XtalPi has raised over $60 million from investors including China Life Healthcare Fund, Sequoia China, Tencent, and Google, which places it among top-funded AI drug R&D companies in the world.

Ma attributes XtalPi's success to its ability to outperform competitors in traditionally challenging areas such as crystal structure prediction. Its solutions have a proven record of high-accuracy, reliability, and a significantly shortened research cycle, which all contribute to increased research efficiency and success rate. In the case of drug discovery, how can artificial intelligence quickly and reliably identify promising compounds from millions of potentially useful chemical structures it has generated? This is where quantum chemistry comes in. With a combination of AI and quantum chemistry, XtalPi can significantly expand its search area for candidate molecules, then use high-accuracy calculations to predict their potency against the desired drug targets, and evaluate their overall development potential based on their predicted physicochemical and pharmaceutical characteristics. Based on these computational insights and predictions, XtalPi's hopes to boost the overall efficiency and success rate of these drug projects.