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New Delhi: Translational Health Science & Technology Institute (THSTI) signed a research agreement with Hyderabad-based Revelations Biotech Pvt. Ltd on Wednesday for diabetes drug discovery and developing an artificial intelligence platform to identify people at a pre-diabetic stage.

The artificial intelligence platform will identify individuals in the very early stages of progression towards diabetes and predict the future course of the disease in individuals who are already diabetic.

To develop this software, the Drug Discovery Research Centre at THSTI, a government-run institute, collected data from nearly 2,000 blood samples over nearly 10 years and for each sample, 6,000 molecules were quantified.

A mathematical group looked at the data and developed models to define molecular signatures for different stages of diabetes and then using machine learning, these signatures were integrated into patterns that capture disease progression.

“When it comes to diabetes, genetics have proven to be a tricky predictor of the disease. Hence, we decided to take the approach of molecules and eventually, we hope to develop a product that can take blood samples and tell if a healthy person has a propensity for diabetes or if someone is at pre-diabetes stage," said Kanury Rao, head of Drug Discovery Research Centre at THSTI.

The second part of the programme looks at developing a novel drug-like molecule that efficiently inhibits function of a target protein called sodium glucose co-transporter (SGLT2). The new drug, which is to be developed by Revelations Biotech, will aim to prevent re-absorption of glucose in the kidneys. A drug that can prevent this process can significantly lower blood glucose levels and help control diabetes.

“Diabetes is a gateway to a host of other diseases and hence needs to be checked at its very onset," said Rao.

Cases of diabetes in India have risen from 32 million in 2000 to over 63 million in 2013, and are expected to cross 100 million in the next 15 years.

“It is hoped that advance warning provided by such a system will allow the target individuals to pre-emptively make appropriate lifestyle alterations so as to mitigate the disease onset and prevent its progression," said K. VijayRaghavan, secretary, department of bio-technology.

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