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Health & Pharma

US and UK companies team up for AI in drug discovery

by Chuck Martin
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SRI International and Exscientia hope to accelerate the development of new cancer therapies

American nonprofit research center SRI International and Exscientia, a British AI-powered pharmatech company, are set to collaborate on a new approach to drug discovery.

The partners plan to accelerate drug discovery by integrating AI-based design with automated compound synthesis.

Shrinking the cycle

The project hopes to combine SRI’s automated synthetic-chemistry system SynFini with Exscientia’s AI-based Centaur Chemist to “expedite discovery of selective molecules for a high value oncology target,” according to the announcement.

“Both the SynFini and Centaur Chemist platforms have demonstrated ability to overcome key drug discovery challenges,” said Nathan Collins, chief strategy officer of SRI’s Biosciences Division and head of the SynFini program. “There is tremendous potential to further accelerate the oncology drug-discovery process by combining these novel and proven technologies.”

SRI’s SynFini platform was developed to speed up the process of bringing new drugs to market by accelerating chemical discovery and molecule development. The design, reaction screening and optimization (RSO), and production of target molecules are automated in the platform.

The SynFini system comprises a software platform, reaction screening platform and multi-step flow chemistry automation and development platform.

Earlier this year, SRI International teamed with French startup Iktos, which also specializes in AI for novel drug design.

The collaboration is focused on accelerating the discovery and development of anti-viral therapies, including therapies for COVID-19, according to an SRI spokesperson.

In the SRI-Exscientia venture, the companies are not disclosing any specific targets, other than they are in the oncology space.

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