Exscientia lands multi-million euro deal with Bayer

Bayer and Exscientia will initially work on three early-stage projects using AI to speed up drug discovery.
By Leontina Postelnicu
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Credit: Bayer AG

German pharma giant Bayer and British biotech firm Exscientia have announced a three-year partnership focused on the use of Artificial Intelligence in cardiovascular and oncology drug discovery.

The collaboration will initially see the companies work on three early-stage research projects, combining Bayer’s data and drug discovery capabilities and Exscientia’s Centaur Chemist platform.

According to the agreement, Exscientia could receive up to €240 million, including upfront and research payments, near term and clinical milestones, as well as royalties on sales resulting from their work. Bayer will own the rights to the novel lead structures generated through the collaboration. 

WHY IT MATTERS

It is well-known that the drug development process can take around 12-15 years from early research to approval. However, recent scientific and technological advances have the potential to address some of the challenges that pharma faces, according to Dr Joerg Moeller, head of R&D.

Although Bayer has started employing AI in drug discovery, there is a need to expand the existing capabilities of the wider industry, Moeller wrote recently. The path forward, he argued, was partnering with AI firms and academia in order to establish a “robust, AI-based pipeline” and “address new therapeutic areas”.

“We are driving forward digital transformation in R&D as we believe that digital technologies such as AI can simplify and speed up the discovery and development of new drugs for patients,” Moeller added in a statement.

“The collaboration with Exscientia is expected to help us to achieve project milestones earlier and at the same time accelerate timelines by enabling more precise identification of suitable drug targets and lead structures.”

THE LARGER PICTURE

Bayer is not the only pharma company to turn to AI in recent months. In October, Basel-headquartered Novartis announced that it would be teaming up with Microsoft on a similar initiative.

And only this week, Japanese giant Takeda revealed that it would be working with MIT’s School of Engineering to further the research on AI and health.

ON THE RECORD

“We’re delighted to collaborate with Bayer, a globally recognized pharmaceutical company who has already committed significant investment to treating challenging diseases,” said Exscientia chief executive Andrew Hopkins.

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