Exscientia, an innovative company at the forefront of Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven drug discovery, is pleased to announce that it has agreed a strategic research collaboration, and licence option agreement with Sanofi in the high-interest area of metabolic disease.
Delivery of new therapies for metabolic disease (such as diabetes) is hampered by a paucity of single targets that are amenable to drug discovery. To address this challenge, Exscientia will apply its unique platform to identify and validate combinations of drug targets* that could work synergistically and be amenable to Exscientia’s powerful bispecific-small-molecule design strategy – where a small molecule is designed to be compatible with two distinct drug targets.
Starting with over a thousand disease-relevant target combinations, Exscientia will triage opportunities and prioritise those with promising bispecific binding potential. Target pairs fulfilling these initial tractability criteria will pass through to Exscientia’s lead-finding platform in order to generate bispecific-small-molecule compounds that can further validate the biological hypothesis. Bispecific small molecules passing all these quality gates may progress to full candidate delivery projects for Sanofi.
Rapid delivery of multiple bispecific opportunities will be empowered by a pipeline of Exscientia capabilities driven by Artificial Intelligence and enabled automated design.
As part of this agreement, Exscientia will be responsible for all compound design, whilst chemistry synthesis will be delivered by Sanofi. Further assays, preclinical experiments and subsequent trials for compounds progressing to the clinic will be managed by Sanofi, where Sanofi exercises the licence option.
The commercial terms for this agreement include the payment of research funding in order to identify those target pairs with the best combination of chemical compatibility and strong biological relevance plus further funding for prioritised candidate delivery opportunities. For compounds reaching agreed delivery criteria, a series of milestones covering both non-clinical and clinical may be payable by Sanofi. Finally, any licensed products reaching the market will qualify for recurrent sales milestones. The total amount potentially payable by Sanofi to Exscientia on achieving these milestones is EUR250 million.
Commenting on this relationship, Andrew Hopkins (CEO, Exscientia) said: ”We are delighted that Sanofi is engaging with Exscientia in a comprehensive, end-to-end drug discovery project. This agreement highlights Exscientia’s ability to apply bispecific drug design in a comprehensive and highly productive manner. Sanofi has put together an excellent experimental backbone for this collaboration and we look forward to delivering high-value projects for the company.”
*Many effective drugs act via modulation of multiple proteins rather than single targets. Advances in systems biology are revealing a phenotypic robustness and a network structure that strongly suggests bispecific compounds could deliver superior clinical efficacy.