Exscientia, a leading artificial intelligence (AI)-driven pharmatech company, today 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, including application of Exscientia’s next generation 3-D evolutionary AI-design platform as part of Centaur Chemist®. The drug candidate has potential for best-in-class characteristics, with high selectivity for the target receptor, bringing together potential benefits of reduced systemic sides 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.
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, following on from Exscientia’s previous announcement in 2020.1
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 immuno-oncology 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.2 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 is an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven pharmatech 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 the 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.
1 Exscientia. Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma and Exscientia Joint Development New Drug Candidate Created Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) Begins Clinical Trial. Available at: https://www.exscientia.ai/news-insights/sumitomo-dainippon-pharma-and-exscientia-joint-development Last accessed: April 2021.
2 Vigano, S., Alatzoglou, D., Irving, M., Ménétrier-Caux, C., Caux, C., Romero, P. and Coukos, G., 2019. Targeting adenosine in cancer immunotherapy to enhance T-cell function. Frontiers in immunology, 10, p.925.
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