Exscientia steps up AI-powered drug discovery with $60M Allcyte acquisition

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Allcyte’s deep learning platform is the first to be clinically proven to improve cancer patients’ outcomes, by evaluating the effects of various treatments in live samples of each patient’s own tissue. (Pixabay / Geralt)

After closing a handful of deals this year worth more than $1.7 billion, Exscientia is ready to start spending that hard-earned cash.

First on its shopping list? Allcyte, an Austrian company developing an artificial intelligence platform to predict how well cancer treatments will work in individual patients.

That technology will now work hand-in-hand with Exscientia’s own software, which uses AI not only to identify potential new drug targets but also to build those drugs and send them to clinical trials.

Through the terms of the deal, Exscientia will pay €50 million, or about $60.6 million U.S., in cash and ordinary shares to acquire Allcyte. Once the deal is complete, Allcyte’s Vienna headquarters will become U.K.-based Exscientia’s European hub.

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With the combination of both platforms, Exscientia will be able to take a precision medicine approach to designing drug molecules, ensuring that they’re even more effective at targeting tumor tissues than those designed with Exscientia’s technology alone. The beefed-up platform will also offer more accurate patient selection capabilities for clinical trials.

Allcyte’s technology relies on deep learning to analyze the effects of various drugs on live samples of an individual patient’s tissue, rather than on artificial or animal models.

A study of the software found that hematological cancer therapies identified by the AI as patients’ best options were linked to significant improvements in progression-free survival rates compared to the patients’ original treatment plans.

A follow-up analysis confirmed that taking Allcyte’s AI-powered recommendations correlated with better outcomes for cancer patients, while patients who received treatments other than those selected by the platform experienced worse results.

“Allcyte is able to demonstrate what therapy actually works in the individual patient with the most disease-relevant screening platform we have seen,” Exscientia CEO Andrew Hopkins said in a statement. “Combining Allcyte’s platform with Exscientia’s technologies can redefine how drugs are developed, enabling integrated discovery and patient selection.”

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The addition of Allcyte’s software to Exscientia’s existing platform will provide a boost to the latter’s drug development efforts, as well as its existing collaborations.

Last month, Exscientia inked a deal to bring its drug discovery talents to Bristol Myers Squibb to the tune of $50 million in upfront payments. That will be followed by another $125 million for proven successes in the short term, plus, if all goes well on the clinical and regulatory fronts, continued milestone payments totaling at least another $1 billion.

That contract came hot on the heels of another influx of funding for Exscientia: In April, the company scored $225 million in series D funding—with help from Bristol Myers Squibb, among other investors—that also provided another $300 million in an equity commitment from SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2, which led the round.