Andrew Hopkins, Exscientia CEO (Exscientia)

Lay­ing claim to an­oth­er AI 'first,' Ex­sci­en­tia tees up an I/O drug for the clin­ic

In Jan­u­ary 2020, Ex­sci­en­tia an­nounced that a drug mol­e­cule to treat OCD in­vent­ed by AI was set to en­ter clin­i­cal tri­als for the first time. A lit­tle over a year lat­er, its AI-de­signed mol­e­cule for im­muno-on­col­o­gy will do the same.

The A2a re­cep­tor an­tag­o­nist was co-de­vel­oped with Evotec and has the po­ten­tial to pre­vent adeno­sine from bind­ing to T-cell re­cep­tors, pro­mot­ing an­ti-tu­mor T-cell ac­tiv­i­ty. Ex­sci­en­tia CEO An­drew Hop­kins said in a state­ment that the mol­e­cule was dis­cov­ered with­in 8 months from project ini­ti­a­tion.

That time frame was even faster than the com­pa­ny’s mol­e­cule for OCD treat­ment, which reached the point of en­ter­ing clin­i­cal tri­als with­in just a year, which is the kind of boast that the AI com­pa­nies love to make. In a Jan­u­ary in­ter­view with The Tele­graph, Hop­kins hint­ed that Ex­sci­en­tia was inch­ing to­ward tri­als of its sec­ond drug, and said that the short­cut was pos­si­ble be­cause the AI plat­form — named Cen­taur — is able to help nar­row down the field of po­ten­tial win­ners. In­stead of test­ing hun­dreds or thou­sands of mol­e­cules, the al­go­rithm ze­roes in on those with po­ten­tial for suc­cess.

Ex­sci­en­tia was not able to an­swer ques­tions in time for this sto­ry’s pub­li­ca­tion Fri­day.

Pernille Hansen

The an­nounce­ment comes at a hot time for ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence plat­forms. The cost of drug de­vel­op­ment in­volves a de­bate that has rolled on for years, but the AI crowd like to fo­cus on a $2.6 bil­lion es­ti­mate to help back their case. Of course, we won’t know the true ad­van­tage un­til the first AI drug makes it through the clin­ic — and in­to the mar­ket.

In Jan­u­ary, As­traZeneca added its first tar­get gen­er­at­ed by AI to its port­fo­lio, af­ter a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Benev­o­len­tAI that be­gan in April 2019. That work fo­cused on chron­ic kid­ney dis­ease, and fits in­to the com­pa­ny’s broad­er AI strat­e­gy. As­traZeneca’s head of re­nal bio­sciences Pernille Hansen said that AI can be used in ways oth­er than dis­cov­er­ing new tar­gets: in chem­istry, imag­ing and be­yond.

Benev­o­len­tAI’s COO Ivan Grif­fin told End­points News in Jan­u­ary that his com­pa­ny has spent years feed­ing its tech with da­ta from pro­teins, genes and re­sults pub­lished in sci­en­tif­ic jour­nals in an ef­fort to train its al­go­rithm to make con­nec­tions that sci­en­tists may not have no­ticed at first. Sci­en­tists take ad­van­tage of these AI-pre­dict­ed re­la­tion­ships and then in­ter­ro­gate them to see if they hold up, Grif­fin said.

Ivan Grif­fin

In Feb­ru­ary, In­sil­i­co founder Alex Zha­voronkov an­nounced that it brought its first can­di­date in­to IND-en­abling stud­ies. His com­pa­ny’s goal is to launch an in-hu­man tri­al lat­er in 2021, though he wasn’t ready to an­nounce what the tar­get or ex­per­i­men­tal drug is. Its fo­cus will be id­io­path­ic pul­monary fi­bro­sis, some­thing that Benev­o­len­tAI and As­traZeneca have al­so said to be col­lab­o­rat­ing on.

Pre­clin­i­cal da­ta from this project will be pre­sent­ed at the AACR an­nu­al meet­ing.

Ugur Sahin, BioNTech CEO (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP Images)

BioN­Tech is spear­head­ing an mR­NA vac­cine de­vel­op­ment pro­gram for malar­ia, with a tech trans­fer planned for Africa

Flush with the success of its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, BioNTech is now gearing up for one of the biggest challenges in vaccine development — which comes without potential profit.

The German mRNA pioneer says it plans to work on a jab for malaria, then transfer the tech to the African continent, where it will work with partners on developing the manufacturing ops needed to make this and other vaccines.

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How one start­up fore­told the neu­ro­science re­nais­sance af­ter '50 years of shit­show'

In the past couple of years, something curious has happened: Pharma and VC dollars started gushing into neuroscience research.

Biogen’s controversial new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm has been approved on the basis of removing amyloid plaque from the brain, but the new neuro-focused pharma and biotechs have much loftier aims. Significantly curbing or even curing the most notorious disorders would prove the Holy Grail for a complex system that has tied the world’s best drug developers in knots for decades.

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Why is On­col­o­gy Drug De­vel­op­ment Re­search Late to the Dig­i­tal Bio­mark­ers Game?

During the recent Annual ASCO Meeting, thousands of cancer researchers and clinicians from across the globe joined together virtually to present and discuss the latest findings and breakthroughs in cancer research and care. There were more than 5000+ scientific abstracts presented during this event, yet only a handful involved the use of motion-tracking wearables to collect digital measures relating to activity, sleep, mobility, functional status, and/or quality of life. Although these results were a bit disappointing, they should come as no surprise to those of us in the wearable technology field.

Art Levinson (Calico)

Google-backed Cal­i­co dou­bles down on an­ti-ag­ing R&D pact with Ab­b­Vie as part­ners ante up $1B, start to de­tail drug tar­gets

Seven years after striking up a major R&D alliance, AbbVie and Google-backed anti-aging specialist Calico are doubling down on their work with a joint, $1 billion commitment to continuing their work together. And they’re also beginning to offer some details on where this project is taking them in the clinic.

According to their statement, each of the two players is putting up $500 million more to keep the labs humming.

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Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Am­gen bel­lies back up to the M&A ta­ble for an­oth­er biotech buy­out, this time with a $2.5B deal for an an­ti­body play­er fo­cused on PS­MA

Five months after Amgen CEO Bob Bradway stepped up to the M&A table and acquired Five Prime for $1.9 billion, following up with the smaller Rodeo acquisition, he’s gone back in for another biotech buyout.

This time around, Amgen is paying $900 million cash while committing up to $1.6 billion in milestones to bag the privately held Teneobio, an antibody drug developer that has expertise in developing new bispecifics and multispecifics. In addition, Amgen cited Teneobio’s “T-cell engager platform, which expands on Amgen’s existing leadership position in bispecific T-cell engagers by providing a differentiated, but complementary, approach to Amgen’s current BiTE platform.”

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Eye­ing quick ap­proval, Ab­b­Vie of­fers a close-up on their pres­by­opia drug da­ta

AbbVie picked up some bonus points earlier this year as one of its pipeline adds from the $63 billion Allergan buyout hit its top-line marks. And now the researchers have produced the detailed data on the case they are making with regulators, with an eye on a major new market and a hoped-for approval before New Year’s.

AGN-190584 is aiming to be the first easy-on eyedrop for presbyopia, a common ailment for large numbers of people who find it harder and harder to read things like a watch or cell phone close up. Anyone who’s held a book out at arm’s length in order to read it will be very familiar with the condition, if not the exact diagnosis.

Ryan Watts, Denali CEO

De­nali slips as a snap­shot of ear­ly da­ta rais­es some trou­bling ques­tions on its pi­o­neer­ing blood-brain bar­ri­er neu­ro work

Denali Therapeutics had drummed up considerable hype for their blood-brain barrier technology since launching over six years ago, hype that’s only intensified in the last 14 months following the publications of a pair of papers last spring and proof of concept data earlier this year. On Sunday, the South San Francisco-based biotech gave the biopharma world the next look at in-human data for its lead candidate in Hunter syndrome.

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UP­DAT­ED: Pan­el of neu­ro­science ex­perts lays out the com­pli­ca­tions with us­ing Bio­gen's new Alzheimer's drug

Treatment of early Alzheimer’s patients with Biogen’s new drug Aduhelm should closely resemble how the drug was studied in its pivotal clinical trials, according to new recommendations from a panel of neuroscience experts led by UNLV’s Jeffrey Cummings.

“Those considering aducanumab therapy should understand that the expected benefit is slowing of cognitive and functional decline; improvement of the current clinical state is not anticipated,” they wrote Tuesday in The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease, noting that some of their recommendations are more specific or more restrictive than the information provided in the FDA’s prescribing information.

Christophe Weber, Takeda CEO (Kyodo via AP Images)

Take­da flesh­es out CNS pact with pep­tide drug­mak­er, set­ting aside $3.5B in fu­ture mile­stones

One of a suite of drugmakers looking to reinvest in the neuroscience space, Takeda has been aggressive in signing on new partners to help build up its pipeline in that space. But sometimes the best partner is the one you already have.

Takeda will set aside $3.5 billion in future milestones and an undisclosed upfront payment to build out its drug discovery deal with Japanese peptide conjugate maker PeptiDream, adding neurodegeneration to the partnership’s list of CNS targets, the companies said Tuesday.

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