Exscientia CEO Andrew Hopkins

Artificial intelligence (AI)-based drug developer Exscientia has closed on $525 million in financing, with the proceeds intended for advancing its pipeline through clinical trials, as well as expanding its technology platform toward autonomous drug design.

Based in Oxford, U.K., Exscientia has completed a $225 million Series D round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 (SVF2). SoftBank also agreed to commit to Exscientia $300 million in equity, from which the company can draw from at its discretion.

“We believe Exscientia’s innovative use of AI to discover and design better quality drugs with greater efficiency has the potential to create important medicines faster than ever before,” Eric Chen, managing partner of SoftBank Investment Advisers, said in a statement. “The Exscientia team have been leaders in AI-based drug discovery since the field’s inception and we believe they will continue shaping its future.”

Exscientia made news worldwide in January 2020 when it joined collaboration partner Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma to announce what they said was the first AI-designed molecule into the clinic by launching a Phase I trial in Japan assessing their DSP-1181 as a treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Exscientia and Sumitomo Dainippon said they needed less than 12 months to bring DSP-1181—an oral long-acting and potent serotonin 5-HT1A receptor agonist—from initial screening to preclinical study. The development effort combined the Japanese pharma’s monoamine GPCR drug discovery expertise and Exscientia’s Centaur Chemist™ AI platform for drug discovery.

DSP-1181 is one of two Exscientia AI-discovered drugs that have advanced to clinical trials. The other is an unnamed A2a receptor antagonist that is being co-developed with Evotec for adult patients with advanced solid tumors—a candidate that began a Phase I trial earlier this month.

According to Exscientia and Evotec, the A2a receptor antagonist was developed using Exscientia’s next generation 3D evolutionary AI-design platform Centaur Chemist®—and is the world’s second fully AI-designed drug to reach the clinic.

Seven candidates in 12 months

The immuno-oncology candidate and DSP-1181, a “design-as-service” candidate, are two of seven precision-designed drugs that Exscientia said have advanced from project initiation to development candidate in an average time of 12 months.

Exscientia has more than 20 active programs in its pipeline, including:

  • Two other immuno-oncology candidates—one partnered with Rallybio, the other unpartnered.
  • Five oncology candidates—two partnered with Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), one with China-based GT Apeiron, one with Huadong Medicine, and one unpartnered.
  • Three candidates in the “inflammation and immunity” category—one partnered with BMS, one with Sanofi, and the other unpartnered.
  • One drug each being developed in anti-infective (partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), COVID-19 (Gates Foundation), psychiatry (BlueOak Pharmaceuticals), unspecified rare disease (Rallybio), and respiratory indications (Bayer).
  • Nine additional programs in undisclosed indications, all in early discovery phases with “various” undisclosed partners.
  • Two other “design-as-service” candidates for unspecified psychiatry indications, both being co-developed by “confidential” partners.

Sanofi and Exscientia signed a potentially €250 million ($302 million) collaboration and license option deal in 2017 to discover bispecific small-molecule drugs against metabolic diseases.

In addition to its Oxford HQ, Exscientia has offices in Miami, Osaka, and Dundee, Scotland.

The SVF2-led Series B included participation from previous round lead investors Novo Holdings and funds managed by Blackrock—as well as investors that included BMS, Mubadala Investment Company, Farallon Capital, Casdin Capital, GT Healthcare Capital, Marshall Wace, Pivotal bioVenture Partners, Laurion Capital, and Hongkou.

“All of our investors share Exscientia’s vision to discover better drugs, faster, through AI and automation,” CEO Andrew Hopkins stated. “With the Series D completed, the quality and depth of our shareholder base allows us the freedom to continue to scale both our platform and pipeline.”