Automated Drug Design

On the Changing Circumstances of Inventorship

Many companies in the pharmaceutical industry are focusing on the development of medical products and drugs. Especially developing new drugs requires highly specialized employees and is both time-consuming and capital-intensive. Experienced researchers search for active pharmaceutical ingredients with a specific effect in relation to a certain target. When potential active pharmaceutical ingredients are identified, they are synthesized for industrial production on basis of the experts’ experiments.

In order to simplify and accelerate this process experts have been trying to implement various types of artificial intelligence (AI). The new methods that apply AI are called computer-assisted drug design, automated drug design or de novo drug design. They make it possible to search and structure enormous quantities of data. Expectations in AI-supported drug design are high and experts assume that in the future predictions regarding the respective molecular properties will be more accurate. Researchers will not become obsolete, but their role is going to change.

Especially in the field of patent law, the interaction between "man and machine" raises several questions, which are currently being examined at the ZLSR by Prof. Dr. Alfred Früh. A frequently discussed issue has been the patentability of AI "inventions" and to what extent such a protection can be justified. Further questions arise, if automated drug development is examined through the lense of the changing circumstances of inventorship, such as: Should companies also be able to be inventors? Or: Should the inventor’s personality rights be abolished?

Früh, A. (2021) "Inventorship in the Age of Artificial Intelligence", SSRN,

Früh, A.; Haux, D.H. (2021) "Künstliche Intelligenz als Erfinder:in?"