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Celgene and Exscientia sign AI drug discovery deal in oncology and autoimmunity

Firm says it cuts discovery timelines by 75%


Celgene has signed a deal with Artificial Intelligence specialists Exscientia to help accelerate its drug discovery in three therapeutic areas.

The deal is part of a wave of investment in AI in drug development, where the industry is facing declining returns on investment, and desperately needs more efficient R&D methods.

The collaboration will use AI to accelerate the discovery of small molecule therapeutic drug candidates for three therapeutic programmes for Celgene in the areas of oncology and autoimmunity.

Exscientia will use its Centaur Chemist AI drug discovery platform in the collaboration. The company claims its technology has shown “unparalleled capabilities” in multiple projects, cutting timelines by at least three-quarters to discover pre-clinical drug candidates.

The AI company, based in Oxford, UK, will receive a $25m upfront payment and will be eligible to further milestones based on the clinical, regulatory and commercial success of the research, as well as tiered royalties on net sales on any resulting products.

The collaboration will involve Excientia applying its ‘full-stack’ AI drug discovery capabilities to the entire R&D project, from gene to the drug candidate.

This deal extends Exscientia’s list of partnerships with pharma and biotech companies, with existing collaborations involving Roche, GSK, Sanofi and Evotec.

Other companies pioneering AI in drug discovery include Berg, which has collaborations with AstraZeneca and Sanofi, while MSD is working with Numerate, and Insilico Medicine is working with GSK.

Earlier this year, Exscientia secured a $26m Series B investment to expand its capabilities, develop its platform and build its own in-house drug pipeline.

Andrew Hopkins

Exscientia's CEO Andrew Hopkins

“We’re incredibly proud to collaborate with Celgene and to sign another partnership with a key industry player, reinforcing our place at the forefront of AI drug discovery,” says professor Andrew Hopkins, ex-Pfizer scientist and CEO of Exscientia.

"Today, patients can wait more than ten years from initial drug discovery to its availability as a treatment.With autoimmune diseases and cancer rates increasing, the pharmaceutical industry’s R&D productivity needs to dramatically improve – and technology is a key part of this. Since our pioneer Nature papers in the field, we have been developing our AI platform on the principle that AI combined with human creativity can significantly accelerate the drug discovery process and thus drastically improve access of new drugs to the market. We’re excited to work with Celgene to drive this transformational change in new therapeutic areas.”

The deal is being struck regardless of the fact that Celgene are set to be acquired by BMS for $74bn - with major cuts to R&D expected as part of the merger savings programme.

Dr Lawrence Hamann, corporate vice president, chemistry at Celgene, commented: “We are tremendously excited to collaborate with such leaders in the development and application of AI tools to accelerate drug discovery.

"Exscientia have a proven track record of success in this emergent field, and we believe that reducing the number of iteration cycles in optimising structure-activity and developability relationships through their platform will very favourably impact our ability to deliver high quality development candidates targeting unmet needs in oncology and autoimmunity.”

Article by
Andrew McConaghie

22nd March 2019

From: Research



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