Celgene and Exscientia Sign the Largest Deal in AI for Drug Discovery

In a deal with €22M paid upfront and undisclosed “substantial milestones and royalties,” Exscientia will use its artificial intelligence technology to help Celgene speed up the discovery of drug candidates for cancer and autoimmune diseases.

“It is the largest AI drug discovery deal done in the industry to date,” said Andrew Hopkins, CEO of Oxford-based Exscientia.

Cancer and autoimmune diseases are indications that are gaining a lot of attention. Celgene has an extensive pipeline targeting these areas, especially cancer. Through this partnership, the company expects to speed up the long process of identifying promising small molecule drug candidates.

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“The goal is to deliver 3 preclinical candidates over 3 years,” Hopkins told me.

Artificial intelligence is gaining recognition for its potential to reduce the time and money it takes to find and develop new drugs. Using AI to analyze large databases, companies like Exscientia can predict which compounds are most likely to have the desired effect without severe side effects.

“The work we have done with partners, including on our own portfolio, has now demonstrated multiple times a reproducible significant reduction in costs,” explained Hopkins. “The data is robust and provides evidence of industry-leading productivity, with our goal being a 10-fold reduction in costs, and we are seeing the first signs of it.”

Exscientia, which raised €23M in January, is partnered with multiple pharma and drug discovery companies, including Roche, GSK, Sanofi and Evotec. The company is just one of many in this exciting new field, with other relevant names in Europe being BenevolentAI and HealX.

“We believe Celgene chose to work with Exscientia as we are the AI drug discovery firm with the best track record of delivering drug candidates, showing AI drug design is here to stay. Exscientia has a solid value proposition rather than a distant promise,” said Hopkins. 


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