Celgene & Exscientia in AI drug discovery collaboration

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Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven drug discovery company Exscientia has entered a three-year AI drug discovery partnership with biopharma company Celgene, including an initial $25 million upfront payment and eligibility to receive substantial milestones based on the clinical, regulatory and commercial success of the program.

In addition, Exscientia is due to receive tiered royalties on net sales on any product resulting from the collaboration.

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 apply its full-stack AI drug discovery capabilities to the execution of the entire project – from gene to the drug candidate.

Applying AI to improve the speed of delivery of new treatments for patients is a key goal of this collaboration.

Oxford-based Exscientia will use its cutting-edge Centaur Chemist™ AI drug discovery platform, which has demonstrated its ability to reduce timelines in discovering pre-clinical drug candidates by at least three-quarters.

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

At the start of this year, the company secured a $26 million Series B investment to expand its capabilities, develop its platform and build its proprietary drug pipeline.

Professor Andrew Hopkins, CEO of Exscientia, said: “Today, patients can wait more than 10 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.

“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.”

Dr Lawrence Hamann, Corporate Vice President, Chemistry at Celgene, added: “Exscientia has 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.”