Sanofi Jumps on Early 2022 AI Train with Exscentia Deal
The two firms have already been partnering in several projects since 2016 and 2019 when Sanofi in-licensed Exscientia's bispecific small molecule candidate, which can target two unique immunology and inflammation targets.
Under the terms of this latest agreement, the companies will work on creating small molecule treatment candidates using Exscientia's AI-driven personalized medicine platform, which contains actual patient samples. Researchers can include clinically relevant data when deciding on new medicine candidates by integrating primary human tissue samples into early target and drug discovery activities.
Exscientia will lead small molecule drug design and lead optimization activities up to candidate nomination, while Sanofi will handle preclinical and clinical development, manufacturing, and commercialization. The company is the first to progress AI-designed small molecules into the clinical setting and currently has three drugs in Phase I human clinical trials.
"Sanofi's collaboration with Exscientia aims to transform how we discover and develop new small molecule medicines for cancer and immune-mediated diseases. Application of sophisticated AI and machine learning methods will not only shorten drug discovery timelines, but will also help to design higher quality and better targeted medicines for patients," said Frank Nestle, the global head of research and chief scientific officer of Sanofi, in a statement.
Exscientia will receive $100 million in cash up front and can expect as much as $5.2 billion in milestones down the road. In addition, if Sanofi commercializes a drug from this collaboration, Exscientia will be eligible to receive tiered royalties of high-single-digits to mid-teens from sales. The company will also have the option to co-invest and increase its royalty fee up to 21%.
"Our expanded collaboration with Sanofi will utilise the breadth of our platform to test AI-designed drug candidates against patient tissue models, potentially providing far better accuracy than conventional approaches such as mouse models. When you consider the change this represents – testing candidates against actual human tissue years before a clinical trial – it's transformative," noted Andrew Hopkins, DPhil, the founder and CEO of Exscientia, in the same press release.
Exscientia, which has offices in Miami, Dundee, Oxford, and Osaka, advanced its AI capabilities after acquiring Allcyte, an Austra-based precision medicine company that uses AI in cancer research, in June 2021. Allcyte's platform has been validated on several hematological tumor and solid tumor types and in non-cancerous tissues.