Oxford firm “Exscientia” to screen more than 15,000 drugs to find the cure

2020-04-02 17:29:16
Oxford firm “Exscientia” to screen more than 15,000 drugs to find the cure
As academic and firms around the world are racing to find a cure for Covid-19, one Oxford-based company which uses AI to develop drugs is stepping up efforts by screening tens and thousands of drugs in search of the cure. Read how they plan to achieve the impossible.

Exscientia is an Oxford-based firm that specialises in artificial intelligence (AI) to discover and develop a new medicine. The firm uses algorithms and machine learning to learn what molecular features make for effective drugs and then apply this during its search for a Covid-19 medicine. They also plan to repurpose existing drugs and construct a novel treatment for the virus


Exscientia hopes to discover a drug that can be repurposed to treat coronavirus within the next six to 12 months, whereupon it would be tested on Covid-19 patients


The firm said it had gained access to a large collection of existing drugs held by the Scripps research institute in California. The drug collection, which comprises more than 15,000 compounds that have been approved and tested for human safety in clinical trials or preclinical studies, has been shipped from California to Oxford.


Exscientia has teamed up with a UK national science facility, Diamond Light Source,  to screen more than 15,000 drugs for their effectiveness as a treatment for Covid-19. 


Exscientia is also working in collaboration with Diamond and Oxford University, which have been working together since January to develop methods for the production of viral proteins for drug screening and structural analysis at Diamond.


Any potential treatment could be made available for compassionate use before clinical trials are completed, but this would depend on how much can be manufactured quickly.


Method of operations

The company is testing drugs that have either been approved by the [US regulator] FDA for other diseases or have been extensively tested for human safety.


They will then use the research given to them, study and repurpose existing molecules in order to discover and create a potential treatment for patients infected with the coronavirus


Exscientia will use its biosensor technology to screen the drug molecules for effectiveness against Sars-CoV-2, the virus responsible for Covid-19. Work will focus on components for viral replication and the interaction between the virus’s spike protein and a human cell receptor that enables the virus’s entry to human cells.

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