Exscientia has entered a four-year collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop small molecule therapeutics that tackle the current coronavirus pandemic and help prepare for future pandemics.
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 (Mpro) 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.
“The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic underscores the urgency to develop safe and effective broad-spectrum drugs to expand our armoury against viruses and their variants. We need to fight today’s pandemic but also ensure we are prepared with new drugs to combat viruses with future pandemic potential. We are honoured to work alongside the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to advance this mission by ensuring accessibility and affordability of these therapeutics globally,” said Andrew Hopkins, Chief Executive Officer of Exscientia. “We believe that our AI-driven platform can accelerate the creation of better, more effective therapeutics that can address some of the world’s most critical and emerging health risks.”
“Small molecule therapeutics could provide a superior approach to guard global health,” said Denise Barrault, Director of Portfolio Management at Exscientia. “Certain targets are prevalent across families of viruses, meaning that potent therapeutics could be broadly effective across multiple virus families. Further, this collaboration will focus on evaluating protein targets that are evolutionarily conserved and are less likely to develop resistance.”
Exscientia will lead the initial antiviral projects and apply its platform technology to research, discover, and develop up to five Phase I-ready small molecule therapeutics for future pandemic preparedness. Exscientia will provide $35 million 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.
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