Exscientia has announced that the world’s first artificial intelligence (AI)-designed molecule for immuno-oncology has entered human clinical trials.
The A2a receptor antagonist, which is in development for adult patients with advanced solid tumours, was co-invented and developed through a joint venture between Exscientia and Evotec.
Tumour cells produce high levels of adenosine, a molecule that helps them escape immune system detection by binding to the A2a receptor on cancer fighting T-cells, reducing T-cell ability to eliminate disease.
Exscientia’s AI-designed A2a receptor antagonist is being investigated for its ability to prevent adenosine from binding to the T-cell receptor and potentially promote anti-tumour T-cell activity.
According to the company, the drug candidate has potential for best-in-class characteristics, “with high selectivity for the target receptor, bringing together potential benefits of reduced systemic sides effects as well as minimal brain exposure to avoid undesired psychological side effects”.
“Immuno-oncology medicines are bringing benefit to a range of cancer patients. Our selective A2a receptor antagonist addresses a next-generation immuno-oncology strategy to empower the human immune system by reversing the effects of high adenosine concentrations,” noted Andrew Hopkins, Exscientia’s chief executive.
“We set ambitious therapeutic objectives for this project, especially high selectivity for the A2a receptor and central nervous system (CNS) sparing properties, in order to reduce the likelihood of systemic side effects. Even with these challenging objectives, we were able to discover our candidate molecule within eight months of project initiation.”