Exscientia builds AI capability with Kinetic acquisition

There is huge focus on the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) in drug discovery –  and Exscientia is another UK company building its capability in this area.

Oxford-based Exscientia said it has acquired the privately owned biophysics specialist, Kinetic Discovery.

Exscientia said the acquisition builds its capabilities for tackling novel drug targets to create first-in-class drug targets.

The company hopes to do this by seeding algorithms with data generated through the use of fragment screening and structural biology.

The hopes is that Kinetic’s expertise will allow the biotech to create a drug discovery company that goes rapidly from gene to clinical candidate for any druggable target of choice.

The acquisition of Kinetic is part of Exscientia’s growth strategy to develop a proprietary drug pipeline and to enhance its support of existing and future partnerships.

Kinetic Discovery has specialist protein engineering, biophysical screening, and structural biology expertise that is “highly synergistic” to Exscientia’s drug design, pharmacology and computational science platform.

Kinetic Discovery’s operations and employees will relocate from their current facilities at Harwell, Oxfordshire to Exscientia’s new facilities in The Schrödinger Building on the Oxford Science Park.

Kinetic’s founder and chief scientific officer, Dr Iva Navratilova, will join Exscientia as its chief biophysicist. The merging of Kinetic will increase Exscientia’s head count to 35 employees, representing 16 different nationalities.

Exscientia also has offices in the UK and Japan and is collaborating with several leading pharmaceutical and life sciences companies, including GSK, Sanofi and Evotec.

Last year GSK and Exscientia signed a deal worth up to £33 million to discover small molecule drugs for up to 10 disease-related areas, based on targets nominated by GSK.

Exscientia also signed a similar deal with Sanofi worth 250 million euros in May last year.

Exscientia’s chief research officer Dr Andy Bell, said: “Our aim is to revolutionise the drug discovery process through the application of a systematic, AI-driven approach.

“We have been working extensively with Kinetic for over two years and our scientists have been incredibly impressed with their ability to rapidly generate high-quality data on a wide range of projects. The evidence we are seeing is that our offering has the potential to radically improve the current drug discovery paradigm.”

Another notable UK firm using AI to enhance drug R&D is BenevolentAI, a biotech “unicorn” valued at around $2 billion that raised a further $115 investment this year and opened a new facility in Cambridge.



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