Exscientia accelerates Covid-19 drug discovery using AI

Exscientia has received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Gates Philanthropy Partners, as part of the Covid-19 Therapeutics Accelerator initiative, to progress a new class of Covid-19 therapeutics created using its artificial intelligence (AI) drug design platform.

Exscientia has demonstrated proof-of-concept by using its AI platform to design a novel class of inhibitors targeting the SARS-CoV-2’s main protease enzyme, Mpro, also known as 3CLpro. Mpro is essential for the replication of coronavirus, so administering an Mpro inhibitor to patients as a standalone antiviral or alongside other concurrent treatments could provide a useful frontline therapy.

Exscientia’s AI-based platform will be used to optimise the novel small molecule inhibitors into a therapeutic development candidate, designed to be active against SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses. The project’s goal is to identify potential pan-coronavirus therapeutics that could be effective against Covid-19, and also new mutations or other SARS viruses that may emerge.

The grant follows recent backing from the Gates Foundation supporting Exscientia’s work in developing treatments for tuberculosis, malaria and non-hormonal contraceptives which began in January 2021.

Dr Denise Barrault, Senior Portfolio Manager at Exscientia, commented: “The danger of new emerging strains and mutations of coronavirus means there is an urgent need for new antiviral drugs in this pandemic alongside vaccines, to respond more quickly in potential future coronavirus pandemics. We believe that the world needs innovation to accelerate the discovery of more effective counter-measures for a range of infectious diseases, including Covid-19.”

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