Sanofi’s €250m AI-driven R&D collaboration for metabolic disease


Sanofi and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven Exscientia have announced a €250m ($271.9m) drug target research collaboration and licence option agreement. 

The partnership will focus on metabolic diseases, such as diabetes.

UK-based Exscientia will manage the compound design using its AI-based screening platform, while France-based Sanofi will oversee the chemistry synthesis.

Exscientia’s platform is used to identify and validate combinations of drug targets through an iterative process according to COO, Mark Swindell.

He told us, “Our algorithms efficiently evolve new novel compounds as part of a rapid design, make test analyse cycle. The AI algorithms rapidly learn from each round of synthesis and assay, automatically driving designs towards the desired end goals with great rapidity.”

“This is radically different to a traditional design or screening approach,” he said.

Swindell said benefits of Exscientia’s platform include, “Lead optimisation efficiency coupled with overall compound quality, as well as the opportunity to consider complex target product profiles through our novel approach to evolve bispecific small molecules.”

“Metrics with existing collaborators suggest that we can reproducibly deliver a candidate compound in just a quarter of the time typically required, even for complex target product profiles,” he added.

Under the agreement Sanofi can select bispecific small molecules passing all these quality gates and develop them further.  

Preclinical experiments and subsequent trials for compounds progressing to the clinic will be undertaken by Sanofi, where Sanofi exercises the licence option.

€250m agreement

Sanofi will pay research funding to Exscientia to identify chemically compatible and biologically relevant target pairs. Funding will also be transferred for prioritised candidate delivery opportunities.

Exscientia explained in a statement, “For compounds reaching agreed delivery criteria, a series of milestones covering both non-clinical and clinical may be payable by Sanofi. Finally, any licensed products reaching the market will qualify for recurrent sales milestones.”

The total amount potentially payable by Sanofi to Exscientia on achieving these milestones is €250m.

The agreement is not exclusive, “Exscientia retains the flexibility to work with other companies in the area of metabolic disease,” said Swindells.

Exscientia is also developing candidate molecules through collaborations for immune-oncology diseases with Evotec, and central nervous system (CNS) disorders with Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma and Sunovion Pharmaceuticals. 

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