Photo of Noor Shaker

Biotechnology & medicine

Noor Shaker

She combines quantum computers and artificial intelligence to speed up the design of new drugs
Mohamed Abou-Zleikha

Year Honored



Hails From
United Kingdom

It can take 15 years from the time a new disease is detected until a drug to combat it reaches the market. Designing a successful drug requires analyzing millions of molecules, and usually costs between 3 and 5 billion euros. In addition, 90% of those that that reach clinical trials fail during the first phase. These data, presented by the company Generative Tensorial Networks (GTN LTD), reflect how complicated it is to access new drugs all over the world, something that is all the more notable in developing countries.

In her efforts to reverse this problem, the co-founder and CEO of GTN LTD, Noor Shaker, uses techniques of quantum physics and machine learning to speed up the creation of new medicines. Thanks to this approach, GTN LTD is resolving the main causes of inefficiency in the design of drugs: the representation of chemical structures and the search for new molecules. These significant advances for the pharmaceutical industry have turned this artificial intelligence expert into one of the winners of the Innovators Under 35 Europe 2018 from MIT Technology Review.

Through quantum computers, which are capable of performing countless and complex calculations at high speed, Shaker simulates the behavior of different chemical compounds. Later, the machine learning algorithms assimilate the data and learn from them without having to be expressly trained for it. This allows them to search deeper on possible compounds and analyze their characteristics, such as solubility and toxicity.

Thanks to the combination of both technologies, the GTN LTD software detects new molecules that have the potential to behave like current drugs. The company’s algorithms simulate, filter and select molecules that were virtually invisible to convert them into different medications. In addition to speeding up the design process, GTN LTD manages to halve the costs of these procedures. To achieve these feats, Shaker explains that the "most difficult thing has been to create a highly qualified team with the same vision of the company", something which she considers "crucial to bring high-quality products to the market".

GTN LTD’s work has already attracted the attention of some of the best pharmaceutical companies in the world. At present, Shaker’s company is also working with some prestigious research institutions in the United Kingdom, such as the Francis Crick Institute, which specializes in biomedicine. Furthermore, they have recently raised nearly 2.3 million euros from venture capital funds.

Manuel Moliner, Doctor in Chemical Sciences from the Polytechnic University of Valencia (Spain) and researcher at the Institute of Chemical Technology, who is a member of the jury of Innovators Under 35 Europe 2018, believes that "automatic learning applied not only to the pharmaceutical field but also to science in general, is a very promising research topic, which no doubt will favor the discovery of high-performance products in the future."

By Alba Casilda
Translation: Lisa Rushforth