Bayer parts ways with Exscientia, leaving one target in AI drug hunter's hands

Bayer and Exscientia are parting ways on an artificial intelligence collaboration that saw the pair work together to find cardiovascular and oncology targets.

Exscientia revealed the end of the collaboration in a second-quarter earnings report issued after-market Wednesday. The U.K.-based AI company said the pact was mutually ended following the achievement of a drug discovery milestone. Exscientia will retain the option to develop one of the two targets that was being worked on in the collaboration.

Bayer and Exscientia signed the deal in January 2020 for 240 million euros ($243 million) including an upfront fee and undisclosed milestones. At the time, Bayer said the deal would help dramatically accelerate the productivity of drug development. The Exscientia partnership was named in a May investor case report (PDF) as part of the German pharma’s pipeline replenishment efforts.

The pair hoped to use AI to identify potential drug molecules for difficult-to-address targets.

In an SEC filing (PDF), Exscientia said the deal was terminated May 30. The company had received revenue of 1.2 million pounds sterling ($1.4 million) from Bayer. 

The Bayer deal was the last agreement built on AI-only design services, which meant Exscientia was less involved in operations than in more recent partnerships it has signed. So moving on from the pact “aligns with company strategy to increasingly focus on programs where Exscientia’s AI design, experimental biology and precision medicine platforms can be integrated.”

Exscientia has a number of high-profile partnerships with biotechs and pharmas, including a $100 million upfront pact with Sanofi that could pay out $5.2 billion over the long term in milestones. Dozens of assets from these partnerships are listed on Exscientia’s pipeline in varying stages of development, but none from the Bayer deal have made the list.