Andrew Hopkins, Exscientia CEO

UP­DAT­ED: Bris­tol My­ers ex­pands Cel­gene-era deal with Ex­sci­en­tia, tak­ing its AI R&D en­gine to the next step

One day af­ter tak­ing a shot on an an­ti-TIG­IT bis­pe­cif­ic from Agenus, Bris­tol My­ers Squibb is still in a deal­mak­ing mood.

For Wednes­day’s chas­er, Bris­tol My­ers is re­turn­ing to a com­pa­ny that had teamed up with Cel­gene be­fore its ac­qui­si­tion in 2019. That biotech is Ex­sci­en­tia, and they’ve scored an ex­pand­ed deal with Bris­tol My­ers to fur­ther build on its ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence ca­pa­bil­i­ties less than a month af­ter a mas­sive Se­ries D fi­nanc­ing.

The up­dat­ed col­lab­o­ra­tion calls for “up to” a $50 mil­lion up­front pay­ment to the Ox­ford, UK-based biotech, along with $125 mil­lion in “near to mid-term” mile­stones, the com­pa­nies said in a re­lease. Oth­er mile­stones for reg­u­la­to­ry and com­mer­cial as­pects can bring the to­tal val­ue of the deal past $1.2 bil­lion.

Much like the orig­i­nal deal, the ex­pan­sion will cov­er three new projects, Ex­sci­en­tia CEO An­drew Hop­kins told End­points News. The part­ner­ship al­so al­lows the pair an op­tion to go in­to even fur­ther projects, he added. In­di­ca­tions will cov­er pri­mar­i­ly on­col­o­gy and im­munol­o­gy but can cov­er any dis­ease with­in those um­brel­las.

Over the last few years, AI deals have be­gun grab­bing a big­ger foothold through­out the bio­phar­ma in­dus­try. Sev­er­al biotechs have al­so popped up promis­ing to speed up the drug de­vel­op­ment process through ma­chine learn­ing and oth­er AI-fo­cused mod­els, in­clud­ing play­ers like in­sil­i­co, De­n­ovio and Gen­e­sis.

Bris­tol My­ers has made these types of AI plays be­fore, sign­ing on to work with Con­cer­to HealthAI in March 2019 to do just that. They al­so part­nered with ma­chine-learn­ing start­up In­sitro in Oc­to­ber 2020 to po­ten­tial­ly find new ways to cre­ate drugs for ALS.

And As­traZeneca an­nounced in Feb­ru­ary it added the first tar­get gen­er­at­ed by AI to its port­fo­lio, com­ing out of a col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Lon­don-based com­pa­ny, Benev­o­len­tAI. That deal fo­cused on iden­ti­fy­ing and val­i­dat­ing a new way to at­tack chron­ic kid­ney dis­ease.

Ex­sci­en­tia is no stranger to wheel­ing and deal­ing, hav­ing scored sev­er­al ma­jor col­lab­o­ra­tions be­fore its first ma­jor fi­nanc­ing round about a year ago. The biotech net­ted part­ner­ships with a host of Big Phar­mas in­clud­ing Bay­er, Roche, Sanofi and Glax­o­SmithK­line, not lim­it­ing their plat­form to one area: The deals ranged from car­di­ol­o­gy and on­col­o­gy to psy­chi­atric and meta­bol­ic dis­eases.

Those deals al­so fol­lowed a team-up with Sum­it­o­mo Dainip­pon Phar­ma for an ex­per­i­men­tal pill in ob­ses­sive com­pul­sive dis­or­der, which the pair claim was the first AI-de­vel­oped drug to en­ter the clin­ic when it be­gan Phase I in ear­ly 2020.

But back in May 2020, Ex­sci­en­tia be­gan hit­ting the gas in rais­ing cap­i­tal, net­ting a $60 mil­lion Se­ries C to more than dou­ble their pre­vi­ous round from 2018. The Se­ries C was ul­ti­mate­ly ex­pand­ed this past March when Black­Rock pushed its to­tal to $100 mil­lion, and Ex­sci­en­tia quick­ly raised an­oth­er $525 mil­lion in late April — a raise that in­clud­ed a $252 Se­ries D round, plus a $300 mil­lion eq­ui­ty in­vest­ment by Soft­Bank.

“Tech­no­log­i­cal­ly we see our goal is to solve drug de­sign and to then use that tech to then scale how we de­liv­er high-qual­i­ty, pre­ci­sion-en­gi­neered drugs in­to the clin­ic,” Hop­kins told End­points. “The more projects we run, the more our sys­tem learns and the bet­ter it gets. There is a di­rect cor­re­la­tion of learn­ing by do­ing.”

The biotech has al­so con­tin­ued to tout what it says are the first-ever ex­per­i­men­tal drugs to hit the clin­ic. In the vein of its OCD pill, Ex­sci­en­tia said in April that its AI-de­signed mol­e­cule for im­muno-on­col­o­gy is the first such com­pound to reach in-hu­man test­ing in that area as well.

This ar­ti­cle has been up­dat­ed to in­clude com­ment from Ex­sci­en­tia CEO An­drew Hop­kins.

The Fac­tors Dri­ving a Rapid Evo­lu­tion of Gene & Cell Ther­a­py and CAR-T Clin­i­cal Re­search in APAC

APAC is the fastest growing region globally for cell & gene therapy trials representing more than a third of all cell & gene studies globally, with China leading in the region. 

APAC is the leading location globally for CAR-T trials with China attracting ~60% of all CAR-T trials globally between 2015-2022. The number of CAR-T trials initiated by Western companies has rapidly increased in recent years (current CAGR of about 60%), with multiple targets being explored including CD19, CD20, CD22, BCMA, CD30, CD123, CD33, CD38, and CD138.

The End­points 11; blue­bird's $3M gene ther­a­py; Bio­gen tout new neu­ro da­ta; Harsh re­views for can­cer drugs; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

Reading about John Carroll’s pick of biotech’s most promising startups has become a treasured tradition. If you ever get curious about previous classes of the Endpoints 11, you can find all of them (plus a number of our other regular specials) here.

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EMA warns of short­ages of two Boehringer heart drugs due to a spike in de­mand

The EMA is putting EU member states on alert over the shortage of two drugs that counter heart attacks due to an uptick in demand.

On Friday, the EMA sent out a warning that two Boehringer Ingelheim drugs are experiencing a shortage: Actilyse and Metalyse. The drugs are used as emergency treatments for adults experiencing acute myocardial infarction, or a heart attack, by dissolving blood clots that have formed in the blood vessels.

The End­points 11: The top pri­vate biotechs in pur­suit of new drugs. Push­ing the en­ve­lope with pow­er­ful new tech­nolo­gies

Right around the beginning of the year, we got a close-up look at what happens after a boom ripples through biotech. The crash of life sciences stocks in Q1 was heard around the world.

In the months since, we’ve seen the natural Darwinian down cycle take effect. Reverse mergers made a comeback, with more burned out shells to go public at a time IPOs and road shows are out of favor. And no doubt some of the more recent arrivals on the investing side of the business are finding greener pastures.

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Luke Miels, GSK chief commercial officer

Lend­ing a hand to a biotech in trou­ble, GSK drops $75M cash to add late-stage an­tibi­ot­ic to port­fo­lio

GSK likes to take pride in being one of the few Big Pharma players still active in antibiotics R&D. And that means keeping tabs on what the field has to offer.

In a move to beef up the late-stage pipeline, GSK is licensing a late-stage antibiotic candidate from Spero Therapeutics. In doing so, it’s coming to the rescue of a struggling biotech that’s crumbled in the wake of an FDA rejection and raised doubts about its ability to carry on.

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David Chang, Allogene CEO (Jeff Rumans)

Servi­er cuts off col­lab­o­ra­tion agree­ment with Al­lo­gene on CD19 prod­ucts, send­ing shares sput­ter­ing

Allogene Therapeutics said in an SEC filing today that French partner Servier has cut off its involvement in a partnership developing therapies directed against CD19, including the most advanced candidates in Allogene’s pipeline.

Shares of Allogene $ALLO, an outfit run by Kite vets Arie Belldegrun and research chief David Chang, fell by almost 10% on Wednesday, even as the San Francisco-based company said that Servier’s discontinuation “does not otherwise affect our current exclusive license for the development and commercialization of CD19 Products in the United States.”

As­traZeneca, Mer­ck cull one Lyn­parza in­di­ca­tion in heav­i­ly pre­treat­ed ovar­i­an can­cer pa­tients

Just one day after blockbuster Lynparza got access to another indication in China, its Big Pharma owners have decided to withdraw it in certain patients after reviewing Phase III data.

The two companies that work together on Lynparza decided to recall one of the indications several weeks ago in a specific type of ovarian cancer, Lynparza’s first indication when it was first FDA-approved in 2014. Initial data showed that rates of overall survival in patients with at least three rounds of chemo before getting on the PARP inhibitor were lower than in patients with less previous chemo treatment.

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Fu­ji­film con­tin­ues CD­MO ex­pan­sion, break­ing ground on $435M UK site

Fujifilm’s CDMO arm, Fujifilm Diosynth, has been on a roll this month as the company has recently broken ground on a major project in Europe and it appears to be keeping up the momentum.

Fujifilm Diosynth announced that it has kicked off an expansion project for its microbial manufacturing facility at its campus in the town of Billingham, UK, in the northeast of England.

The 20,000 square-foot, £400 million ($435 million) expansion will add clean rooms, purification suites and a packing area along with more space for the manufacturing itself.

Lina Khan, FTC chair (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

FTC chair Lina Khan to Sen­ate: Big Phar­ma M&A is still a pri­or­i­ty tar­get

As the Federal Trade Commission has already sought new ideas for analyzing pharma mergers, FTC chair Lina Khan reiterated Tuesday to a Senate subcommittee that reviewing Big Pharma mergers is a priority.

While comparing this merger analysis in the pharma space to the study of public utilities in the 1930s “that exposed rampant financial fraud,” Khan said in prepared testimony that the commission is going to target unlawful conduct.

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