The Courier

Dundee AIdrug design firm secures €250m deal

Professor Andrew Hopkins, CEO of Exscientia

A Dundee University spin-out company has secured a potential €250 million pipeline of work after agreeing a deal with life sciences giant Sanofi.

Exscientia’s deal to provide the French group with new bispecific drug candidates is one of the largest agreements of its kind involving an independent Scottish biotech firm.

Sanofi’s aim with the project is to bring a new generation of diabetes drugs to market that has the capability of targeting two of the acute symptoms of the disease with a single pill or treatment.

Instead of using traditional and very time-consuming lab-based methods to bring forward new drug candidates, Exscientia has developed artificially intelligent algorithms that carry out the drug design work on outsourced cloud computing networks.

The model significantly shortens pre-clinical trials and also improves the chances of the candidate drug making it through the clinical trial process and, ultimately, become a widely available medication.

Exscientia has previously produced designs for a bispecific drug in the phsyciatric arena but chief executive, Professor Andrew Hopkins, said the Sanofi deal was a milestone.

He said the group is comitted to Dundee for the forseeable future and he hopes it will eventually build a new headquarters in the city.

“Sanofi is interested in developing a new generation of drugs for diabetes patients,” Prof Hopkins said.

“So what will the next generation of diabetes treatments will look like?

“That is where our technology comes in. The advantage of the computational algorithmic approach is we can explore a large number of potential molecules and we can do an assessment of the design so that the molecule can hit two targets.

“This is cutting edge technology, developed in Dundee.

“Its value is recognised worldwide.”