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AI specialist Exscientia buys Kinetic Discovery

The biophysics tech will radically improve the drug discovery paradigm, says Exscientia

Exscientia

Exscientia has bolstered its drug discovery platform by acquiring Kinetic Discovery in a deal that it says will improve its ability to generate clinical candidates quickly.

Exscientia, a specialist in applying artificial intelligence to drug discovery, says that Kinetic’s biophysics technology will allow it to seed its AI algorithms with data generated from fragment screening and structural biology studies, creating a ‘full stack’ AI-driven drug discovery platform.

Kinetic operates mainly as a contract research organisation (CRO) at present, providing services such as hit identification, confirmation and validation. It has a particular focus on fragment screening, which involves screening chemical fragments rather than drug-like molecules, and has the advantage of achieving a higher hit rate than traditional high-throughput screening approaches at lower cost. Once identified, the lead fragments can then be grown or combined into the drug candidate.

“We have been working extensively with Kinetic for over two years and our scientists have been incredibly impressed with their ability to rapidly generate high-quality data on a wide range of projects,” said Exscientia’s chief research officer Dr Andy Bell.

“The evidence we are seeing is that our offering has the potential to radically improve the current drug discovery paradigm.” The company has previously said its approach should be able to identify lead candidates in a quarter of the usual time, and at a quarter of the cost.

There are close ties between the two companies, which both have their origins in the University of Dundee in Scotland but have relocated to the biotech ‘golden triangle’ in the southeast of England. Excientia’s chief executive Prof Andrew Hopkins is a co-founder of Kinetic, along with the latter’s chief scientific officer Dr Iva Navratilova who will now join Exscientia as its chief biophysicist.

Like Exscientia, Kinetic’s main location is now in Oxfordshire, and adding its employees to Exscientia will swell the combined company’s headcount to around 35 across 16 nationalities.

Exscientia’s expansion is a further sign of the UK’s emerging position in drug discovery AI, with the country now boasting a cluster of companies in this area that also includes BenevolentAI, Intellegens, and new start-up GTN as well as dozens of companies in other AI applications

There are also signs that the embryonic industry is starting to attract the kind of deals that are familiar among the conventional biotech sector. In 2017, Exscientia signed a €250m deal with Sanofi to discover and develop double-headed (bispecific) small-molecule drugs that have potential to treat metabolic diseases, as well as a wide-ranging collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline whose financial terms are as-yet undisclosed.

Article by
Phil Taylor

15th November 2018

From: Research, Sales

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