Sanofi teams up with AI-driven Exscientia to develop cancer drugs
Sanofi has formed a deal to develop 15 experimental oncology and immunology drugs with Exscientia with possible total payouts of as much as $5.2bn, allying with a company that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to make new medicines.
The Oxford, England-based company will receive $100m upfront, as well as milestone payments and royalties from successful treatments, the companies said on Friday.
This is the latest attempt by Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson to rejuvenate the French drugmaker’s development pipeline. In December, Sanofi agreed to buy privately held Amunix Pharmaceuticals for as much as $1.2bn to add promising cancer medicines. Sanofi also bought messenger-RNA development partner Translate Bio for $3.2bn and US biotech Kadmon Holdings for $1.9bn in 2021 .
Sanofi has been working with Exscientia since 2016. In 2019, Sanofi licensed a drug candidate from the company with targets in inflammation and immunology.
The collaboration aims to transform how new small molecule medicines for cancer and immune-mediated diseases are developed, Frank Nestle, Sanofi’s global head of research and chief scientific officer, said in a statement.
Founded in 2012, Exscientia considers itself a “pharmatech” company that uses AI and machine learning to speed up the development of small molecule drugs. Such medicines, often known as targeted therapies, can interfere with specific molecules inside cells and thus block the growth and spread of cancer. They differ from biologic agents, which include antibody therapies and vaccines.
Exscientia has more than 25 projects under way, including three AI-designed drug candidates for cancer and psychiatry that are already in early clinical trials, the company said. The company tests its drug candidates on human tissue samples in preclinical trials rather than conventional methods, which often involve mice.
Exscientia held an initial public offering of American Depository Shares in 2021 and now has a market value of $2.1bn, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Sanofi shares were up 0.5% to €88.54 as of 2.30pm in Paris trading.
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