World’s First AI-designed Immuno-oncology Drug to Enter Clinical Trials

Exscientia, a leading artificial intelligence (AI) driven pharmatech company based in Oxford, England, announced that the first AI-designed molecule for immuno-oncology is to enter human clinical trials.

The A2a receptor antagonist in development for adult patients with advanced solid tumours

The A2a receptor antagonist, which is in development for adult patients with advanced solid tumours, was co-invented and developed through a collaboration between Exscientia and Evotec, including an application of Exscientia’s next-generation 3-D evolutionary AI-design platform as part of Centaur Chemist®. The novel A2a receptor antagonist is the most advanced asset arising from the Exscientia and Evotec joint venture.

The drug candidate has potential for best-in-class characteristics, with high selectivity for the target receptor, bringing together potential benefits of reduced systemic side effects, as well as minimal brain exposure to avoid undesired psychological side effects. Preclinical data related to this project will be presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting to be held 9-14 April, 2021.

Tumour cells produce high levels of adenosine, a molecule that helps them escape immune system detection by binding to the A2a receptor on cancer fighting T-cells, reducing T-cell ability to eliminate disease. Exscientia’s AI-designed A2a receptor antagonist is being investigated for its ability to prevent adenosine from binding to the T-cell receptor and potentially promote anti-tumour T-cell activity.

Exscientia’s AI technologies responsible for world’s first and second AI-designed drugs to enter Phase I testing

With this announcement, the company’s AI technologies and drug-hunting expertise are now creators of the first two AI-Designed drugs in the world to enter Phase I testing, following on from Exscientia’s previous announcement in 2020.

Andrew Hopkins, CEO of Exscientia said:

“Immuno-oncology medicines are bringing benefit to a range of cancer patients. Our selective A2a receptor antagonist addresses a next-generation IO strategy to empower the human immune system by reversing the effects of high adenosine concentrations. We set ambitious therapeutic objectives for this project, especially high selectivity for the A2a receptor and central nervous system (CNS) sparing properties, in order to reduce the likelihood of systemic side effects. Even with these challenging objectives, we were able to discover our candidate molecule within 8 months of project initiation”.

Dr Craig Johnstone, Chief Operating Officer of Evotec, commented: 

“We highly value our ongoing partnership with Exscientia, which has been highly collaborative and productive in every respect. We are therefore delighted to announce the start of clinical development of our co-owned A2a antagonist with Exscientia in the hope that the fruits of our collaboration can bring potential benefits to patients in the future.”

Exscientia will lead further clinical development of the molecule and Evotec will retain co-ownership rights throughout clinical development.

About Exscientia

Exscientia is an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven pharmatech company committed to discovering and designing the best possible medicines in the fastest and most effective manner. Exscientia is the first company to progress AI-designed small molecules into the clinical setting and repeatedly demonstrate the ability of AI to transform how drugs are created.

Drug design is precision engineering at the molecular scale. Exscientia has built dedicated AI systems that efficiently learn from the widest range of data and consistently reapply enhanced knowledge through iterations of design. Because Exscientia’s AI platform learns more effectively and rapidly than human-led efforts alone, candidate molecules satisfying complex therapeutic requirements are created with revolutionary efficiency. Exscientia believes that designing better drugs, faster, will allow the best ideas of science to rapidly become the best medicines for patients.

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