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A snapshot of… Exscientia

In this month’s issue of PME, we take a look at Exscientia and talk to CEO Andrew Hopkins about the company’s technologies and the obstacles it faces in the biotech sector.

A brief overview of the company

Founded in 2012, we are the leading AI pharmatech company and the first to automate drug discovery. Our aim is to make safer, more sophisticated drugs available to all – more quickly and efficiently than ever before.

At Exscientia, we uniquely apply AI and machine learning with experiments in order to accelerate the discovery of new clinic-ready compounds. Starting with preliminary hits, our AI-driven Centaur Chemist platform progressively designs novel compounds that when combined with high quality experimental validation cuts the discovery time and simultaneously generates higher quality compounds than can’t be typically achieved by conventional methods. Thanks to our capabilities, we have been able to take medicine discovery from five years to one year, cutting the cost of drug development by more than 30%.

We have so far discovered four preclinical drug candidates, and recently announced the first drug designed by AI in partnership with Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma to enter human trials. We’ve also signed numerous major pharma collaborations with companies including Roche, Celgene, Sanofi, GSK and Evotec, estimated to be worth over $1bn in milestones and royalties.

What makes the company’s technologies stand out in a crowded field?

One of the things that distinguishes our technology is that we don’t just use AI to repurpose old or already discovered molecules, we design completely novel ones. From the initial phases of drug discovery, we use our proprietary AI platform, Centaur Chemist, to understand what molecules we ought to be focusing on – these are usually the ones that offer up the most relevant information that will allow us to learn at a much faster rate.

Our algorithms are able to analyse thousands of different proteins and as such, predict which compound would be active against them, which we then take forward to test.

Why will the company make it in the highrisk, highly competitive pharmatech field?

As a full stack AI drug discovery company, we generate our own data before combining the analytical power of AI with the creativity and expertise of our world-class scientists. This allows us to shorten the preclinical drug discovery stage by at least three-quarters and, in turn, substantially accelerate the delivery of new treatments to patients worldwide.

Our highly scalable drug discovery platform, Centaur Chemist, is built on best-in-class, validated proprietary AI technology guided by the unrivalled knowledge and experience of our scientists. Our approach has transformed the drug discovery process and we are the first to demonstrate that AI algorithms can outperform expert human drug designers in the search for optimised drug compounds.

The number of global pharma companies that have chosen to partner with us is testament to our ability to deliver unprecedented results – but we also have our own pipeline of projects. And while we’re working in a very competitive space, we’re excited to see what’s next for the industry as a whole. Ultimately, we believe AI will be able to transform the whole life cycle of taking a drug to market, and not just in the initial design phase.

What practical business issues is the company facing?

In AI drug discovery, there will always be the challenge of sourcing the right volume of data, which we refer to as a ‘small data challenge’. However, another key business challenge in the AI drug discovery field is the relationship and collaboration that is needed between our AI drug discoverers and AI technology team. This is something we believe we do very well at Exscientia, as we have an incredibly diverse team with 50% being top biologists, chemists and pharmacologists and the other 50% consisting of top AI technologists. Together, we’re able to take on the challenge to create the medicines of tomorrow.

What impact is the planned Brexit having on the company?

For Exscientia, access to great talent is vital. We work closely with universities and have an international team which we plan on continuing to grow. However, we will deal with this as any company in the UK would, and search for the best talent regardless of borders.

Andrew Hopkins is CEO of Exscientia

8th July 2020

8th July 2020

From: Research

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