GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will use the artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled platform of Exscientia to develop new drugs, through a collaboration that could generate up to £33 million (about $43 million) in milestone payments for the British AI-focused drug discovery and design company.

GSK said it will use Exscientia’s platform to discover novel and selective small molecules for up to 10 disease-related targets to be chosen by GSK across “multiple” therapeutic areas. Exscientia plans to apply big-data resources—from its medicinal chemistry and large-scale bio-assays, to its AI-driven algorithms—to design novel molecules with a single target each.

Exscientia said it will receive research payments from GSK toward new discovery programs with nominated targets, with the goal of delivering preclinical candidates. Exscientia is also eligible for near-term payments tied to achieving lead and preclinical candidate milestones.

If candidates for all 10 envisioned targets are advanced, Exscientia added, it will receive the £33 million (about $43 million) in milestone payments.

While additional funding details were not disclosed, Exscientia did say that it was “incentivized” to achieve lead and candidate compound goals by reducing the number of compounds required for synthesis and assay. The company said the undisclosed incentive followed its observation that early drug discovery stages have not enjoyed the same significant efficiencies that other fields have seen following new technologies.

“The alliance provides further validation of our AI-driven platform and its potential to accelerate the discovery of novel, high-quality drug candidates,” Exscientia CEO Andrew Hopkins, FRSE, FRSC, said in a statement. “Applying our approach to client discovery projects has already delivered candidate-quality molecules in roughly one-quarter of the time, and at one-quarter of the cost of traditional approaches. Our intention therefore is to apply these capabilities to projects selected by GSK.”

While Exscientia’s announcement did not disclose the therapeutic areas, GSK states on its website that its key therapeutic areas of interest are bioelectronics R&D, biopharmaceuticals technologies and processes, consumer healthcare, immuno-inflammation, infectious diseases including bacterial, viral and parasitic infections, metabolic, and cardiovascular, neglected tropical diseases, neurosciences, oncology, ophthalmology, respiratory, and vaccines: “While we are particularly focused on these therapeutic areas our partnering interest is not limited to these.”

The collaboration with GSK is Exscientia’s second with a pharma giant focused on AI-driven drug discovery. In May, Sanofi agreed to pay up to €250 million ($283 million) in milestone payments under a strategic research collaboration and license option agreement aimed at developing new therapies for diabetes and other metabolic diseases. Those therapies will be bispecific small molecules designed to be compatible with two distinct drug targets, Exscientia has said.

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