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Exscientia enter first-ever AI cancer drug into Phase I trials

Published on 09/04/21 at 11:16am
Cancer cell

Exscientia and Evotec have announced that they are entering an AI-designed immuno-oncology drug into Phase I trials for the first time ever.

The A2a receptor antagonist, which is in development for adult patients with advanced solid tumours, was invented and developed using Exscientia’s next generation 3-D evolutionary AI-design platform.

This will be Exscientia’s second such drug to begin clinical trials, after their treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder entered studies in January last year; these are the first two AI-designed therapies in the world to enter a Phase I trial.

The drug candidate has potential for best-in-class characteristics, with high selectivity for the target receptor. It is hoped this will reduce systemic side effects, and cause minimal brain exposure to avoid undesired psychological side effects too.

The A2a receptor antagonist is being investigated for its ability to prevent adenosine - a molecule produced in large amounts by tumour cells to escape detection - from binding to T-cell receptors, which reduces the T-cell’s ability to fight disease. If it can prevent this, then this could then promote anti-tumour T-cell activity.

Andrew Hopkins, CEO of Exscientia, said: “Immuno-oncology medicines are bringing benefit to a range of cancer patients. Our selective A2a receptor antagonist addresses a next-generation immuno-oncology strategy to empower the human immune system by reversing the effects of high adenosine concentrations. 

“We set ambitious therapeutic objectives for this project, especially high selectivity for the A2a receptor and central nervous system sparing properties, in order to reduce the likelihood of systemic side effects. Even with these challenging objectives, we were able to discover our candidate molecule within eight months of project initiation.”

Jack Goddard

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