Exscientia, a pharmatech company based in Oxford, U.K. that uses AI for small molecule drug discovery, has announced it has received a $1.5 Million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a COVID-19 therapy that is highly effective against new mutations in the SARS-CoV-2 and other SARS viruses as well. Exscientia has announced it would be developing the drug within 12 months and then recruit volunteers for clinical trials.
Exscientia is a spin-off from the University of Dundee and has Softback, asset management company BlackRock, and pharmaceutical major Bristol Myers Squibb as its financial backers. The company is a clinical-stage pharmatech company that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and human creativity to develop sophisticated and advanced small molecule drugs and advances them to clinical settings. The company is using its AI tech to design and develop a novel class of inhibitors that target the crucial protease enzyme of SARS-CoV-2 that is highly imperative for its replication in the human body. It will be working on transforming these inhibitors into a pill to treat COVID-19 infection. The company is hoping these pills are effective against new mutations, strains, and other coronaviruses. According to Denise Barrault, a biologist at Exscientia, the company is aiming to develop a low-cost pill that can be easily distributed on a global scale and administered quickly to people who are infected with COVID-19 to prevent severe infection and the need for hospitalization. Nearly 15 biologists and AI experts will be recruited to work on this project.
The grant has been given under COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, which is an initiative by the Gates Foundation, Mastercard, and Wellcome to accelerate the response to the currently ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.