Exscientia has partnered with the Alzheimer’s Research UK-University of Oxford Drug Discovery Institute (ARUK-ODDI) to develop medicines for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

AD is a common form of dementia, where an estimated 44 million people living with AD or a related form of dementia worldwide. Currently, there is no cure for the disease, according to the NHS.

The collaboration will focus on a specific neuroinflammatory pathway associated with the development of AD.

The new partnership will combine its AI-driven molecular design capabilities with ARUK-ODDI’s extensive knowledge and technical expertise in the therapy area.

Exscientia COO David Hallett said: “Alzheimer’s is a dreadful disease that affects tens of millions worldwide. Despite clinical trials of numerous agents over a wide range of mechanisms, the last new Alzheimer’s medication, was approved nearly two decades ago.

“Alzheimer’s drug development is costly, complex and extremely challenging with clinical trial failure rate being the highest of any therapeutic area.

“Our mission is to make novel drugs available to all and we are excited to utilise our AI drug discovery platform and work alongside the expertise of the Alzheimer’s Research UK-Oxford Drug Discovery Institute team to accelerate innovation and develop potential medicines to solve this global epidemic.”

Exscientia to deploy AI-driven technology to target AD pathway

The drug discovery firm said that the activation of NLRP3 inflammasome has been observed to play an important role in AD pathogenesis.

Despite other efforts to develop anti-inflammatory drugs for AD, targeting NLRP3 inflammasome inhibition in the brain is said to be an advanced therapeutic approach.

Exscientia intends to deploy its established AI-driven technology to generate high-value novel clinical assets that target the AD pathway.

In addition, chemical starting points that modulate NLRP3 inflammasome formation, identified over years of research by the ARUK-ODDI will also be used.

The combination of Exscientia’s Centaur Chemist AI-design systems and the ARUK-ODDI’s biology and screening expertise would advance the delivery of distinct candidates for AD.

The ARUK-ODDI is a drug discovery team, founded with support from the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK, aimed at advancing the therapeutic utility of basic science generated at the universities.

Alzheimer’s Research UK CSO John Davis said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Exscientia. Their state-of-the-art AI capabilities will enable us to investigate multiple molecules in parallel and accelerate the project towards candidate declaration.

“Human genetic variation points towards a critical role for the body’s immune system in an individual’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.  It is vital that we develop treatments that target neuroinflammatory mechanisms underlying dementia.”

In December 2020, Exscientia has received $4.2m funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to discover new therapeutics for malaria, tuberculosis, and non-hormonal contraception.