Exscientia announces joint initiative to identify COVID-19 drugs with Diamond Light Source and Scripps Research


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Transatlantic partnership seeks to identify COVID-19 antiviral treatments

·       Exscientia to screen nearly every known approved and investigational drug – 15,000 clinical molecules – against key COVID-19 drug targets to progress rapid treatments

Exscientia, the leading artificial intelligence (AI) driven drug discovery company, today announced a joint initiative with Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron facility and Calibr, a division of Scripps Research (USA), to progress compounds that could rapidly become viable drugs for the rapid treatment of COVID-19.

Through this alliance, Exscientia has gained access to Calibr’s world’s leading collection of 15,000 clinically-ready molecules. This collection includes launched drugs, additional compounds that have already been shown to be safe in humans and promising compounds that have passed pre-clinical safety studies. The collection, which has been funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will be shipped from the Scripps Research in La Jolla, California to Exscientia, in Oxford, UK.

Exscientia will first apply its advanced biosensor platforms to rapidly screen the complete collection against key viral drug targets of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. Three prioritised targets include; the 3CL protease, the NSP12-NSP7-NSP8 RNA polymerase complex (both of which are vital components for viral replication) and the virus’s SPIKE protein, which interacts with the human cell receptor ACE2 in order to gain entry to human cells. 

Dr Martin Redhead, Head of Quantitative Pharmacology at Exscientia, who will carry out the analysis, commented: “Given the ever expanding scale and rapid speed at which COVID-19 is spreading, the initial priority is to search for any existing drug that can be  repurposed to protect the human population. Then as we move forward we can design superior molecules with our AI-Design systems to work even more effectively against the virus. The Scripps Research collection allows us to explore both of these important objectives.

Professor Dave Stuart FRS, Director of Life Sciences at Diamond Light Source and MRC Professor of Structural Biology at the University of Oxford, is co-ordinating the efforts along with his colleagues, Dr Martin Walsh and Dr Jonathan Grimes. Prof. Stuart commented: “The drugs we are testing have either been approved by the FDA for other diseases or have been extensively tested for human safety. By being able to start with existing high-quality molecules, we can move more rapidly to clinical trials, and potentially an initial treatment for patients”. The three UK collaborators; Diamond Light Source, Oxford University and Exscientia have been working together since January, firstly to produce viral proteins initiate drug screening and then to investigate how anti-viral drugs at atomic detail in order to provide high-quality seed data for Exscientia’s AI drug design algorithms. 

Exscientia’s mission is to make safer, more sophisticated drugs available to all – more quickly and efficiently than ever before using it AI drug discovery platform. At this critical time globally, the company believes that a dual strategy to first identify opportunities in the existing set of known drugs and then work on new optimised molecules is an optimal path to start to protect the human population from this invasive disease.


About Exscientia

Exscientia is a global Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven drug discovery company.  By fusing the power of the original AI with the experience of seasoned drug hunters, Exscientia’s innovative Centaur Chemist™ platform enables breakthrough productivity gains as well as new approaches to improve drug efficacy. Novel compounds are automatically designed and prioritised for synthesis by its AI systems, which rapidly evolve compounds towards the desired candidate criteria for clinical development.  For more information visit us on www.exscientia.ai or follow us on Twitter @exscientialtd.

About Diamond Light Source

Diamond Light Source is the UK’s national synchrotron, providing industrial and academic user communities with access to state-of-the-art analytical tools to enable world-changing science. Shaped like a huge ring, it works like a giant microscope, accelerating electrons to near light speeds, to produce a light 10 billion times brighter than the Sun, which is then directed off into 33 laboratories known as ‘beamlines’. In addition to these, Diamond offer access to several integrated laboratories including the Electron Bio-imaging Centre (eBIC) and the Electron Physical Science Imaging Centre (ePSIC). Diamond serves as an agent of change, addressing 21st century challenges such as disease, clean energy, food security and more. Since operations started, more than 14,000 researchers from both academia and industry have used Diamond to conduct experiments, with the support of approximately 700 world-class staff. More than 9,000 scientific articles have been published by our users and scientists. Funded by the UK Government through the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), and by the Wellcome Trust, Diamond is one of the most advanced scientific facilities in the world, and its pioneering capabilities are helping to keep the UK at the forefront of scientific research. For more information visit us on www.diamond.ac.uk or follow us on Twitter @DiamondLightSou


About Calibr

Calibr was founded on the principle that the creation of new medicines can be accelerated by pairing world-class biomedical research with state-of-the-art drug discovery and development capabilities. Leveraging the unique scientific framework of Scripps Research, Calibr has created a portfolio of drug candidates based on Scripps technologies, and is shaping a new paradigm for advancing non-profit biomedical research to impact patients while re-investing in further innovative research. For more information visit us on www.calibr.org or follow us on Twitter @scrippsresearch.


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