Exscientia, a leading Oxford-based artificial intelligence (AI) driven pharmatech company, has announced the first AI-designed molecule for immuno-oncology to enter human clinical trials. The A2a receptor antagonist, which is in development for adult patients with advanced solid tumours, was co-invented and developed through a Joint Venture between Exscientia and Evotec, which has a base at Milton Park near Abingdon, including application of Exscientia’s next generation 3-D evolutionary AI-design platform as part of Centaur Chemist®.
With this announcement, the company’s AI technologies and drug-hunting expertise are now responsible for the first two AI-Designed drugs to enter Phase I testing.
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”.
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.
Drug design is precision engineering at the molecular scale. Exscientia is the first company to progress AI-designed small molecules into the clinical setting and repeatedly demonstrate the ability of AI to transform the how drugs are created.
- Exscientia’s tree sculpture logo is based on a sketch found in Darwin’s notebook where he first proposed a theory of evolution and natural selection. Developing AI to be creative follows similar principles to evolution to generate new ideas and using models to select the best.