Business & Finance
Exscientia Enters USD 70m Collaboration to Develop Antiviral Therapeutics Against Coronavirus and Other Viruses with Pandemic Potential
8 September 2021 - - UK-based AI-driven pharmatech company Exscientia has forged a four-year collaboration with the non-profit Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop small molecule therapeutics that tackle the current coronavirus pandemic and help prepare for future pandemics, the company said.

The collaboration will initially focus on developing broad-spectrum coronavirus agents (e.g., SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, MERS), including accelerating Exscientia's lead programme, which targets the main protease of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19.

Subsequently, the collaboration will expand to develop therapeutics for influenza and Paramyxoviridae (e.g., Nipah), with the potential to develop additional programmes as identified by the joint team.

Exscientia's AI-driven platform enables scientific concepts to be rapidly translated into precision-designed therapeutic candidates, with a goal of increasing probability of success and an accelerated path to the patient.

The Gates Foundation's programme-related investment in Exscientia was made through its Strategic Investment Fund (SIF), a team that uses a suite of financial tools to address market failures and incentivise private enterprise to develop affordable and accessible products and services for low-income populations.

SIF investments are intended to further the Gates Foundation's programmatic goals, not to generate financial returns.

If any profit is generated by an investment, it will be used solely for charitable purposes through Gates Foundation philanthropic programmes.

Under the terms of the agreement, Exscientia will receive a USD 35m equity investment from the SIF, with the potential for additional grant funding to help advance development candidates through commercialisation.

The Gates Foundation's programme-related investment is subject to certain closing conditions being satisfied.

Exscientia will lead the initial antiviral projects and apply its platform technology to research, discover, and develop up to five Phase 1-ready small molecule therapeutics for future pandemic preparedness.

Exscientia will provide USD 35m in matching contributions, through operations and funding for third party activities.

Exscientia maintains worldwide rights to all developed products with a commitment to make the antiviral products affordable and accessible to people in developing countries.

In July, Exscientia received a grant from the Gates Foundation to expedite the optimisation of a new class of COVID-19 therapeutics created using its AI drug design platform, focused on a novel class of inhibitors targeting the SARS-CoV-2's main protease enzyme, Mpro, the causative agent of COVID-19.

This work will continue under the new collaboration.

Additionally, in 2020, the foundation awarded a USD 4.2m grant to Exscientia to identify new innovative treatments for malaria and tuberculosis two of the world's leading infectious disease killers as well as new medicines for non-hormonal contraception.

Exscientia is an AI-driven pharmatech company committed to discovering, designing, and developing the best possible drugs 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 drug candidates are created. Exscientia's AI platform has now designed three drugs that are in Phase 1 human clinical trials.