Exscientia announces first AI-designed immuno-oncology drug in clinical trials


Exscientia announces first AI-designed immuno-oncology drug to enter clinical trials
The company’s technologies and drug-hunting expertise is now responsible for the world’s first and second AI-designed drugs to enter Phase I testing.

Exscientia, a leading artificial intelligence (AI) driven pharmatech company, has 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 the 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 09 to14 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 IO 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 (1) 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.

More from The Oxford Magazine