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Oxford-based firm, Exscientia, to screen 15,000 drugs in search for COVID-19 cure

09:12 14 April in Advanced Engineering & Manufacturing, Digital Technology, Life Sciences & Healthcare, News, Oxfordshire, Talent and Innovation

Exscientia, a University of Dundee spinoff, now based in the Oxford Science Park, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to develop new medicines has teamed up with the UK national science facility to screen more than 15,000 drugs for their effectiveness in treating COVID-19.

The company explained that they gained access to a large collection of existing drugs held by the Scripps Research Institute in California. They will screen the drugs in partnership with the Diamond Light Source, based at Harwell Campus, Oxford which works as a giant microscope, generating bright light allowing scientists to study viruses.

The team hopes to discover a drug that can be repurposed to treat coronavirus within the next six to 12 months, whereupon it would be tested on COVID-19 patients. Any potential treatment could be made available for compassionate use before clinical trials are completed, but this would depend on how much can be manufactured quickly.

“The drugs we are testing have either been approved by the [US regulator] FDA for other diseases or have been extensively tested for human safety. By being able to repurpose existing molecules, we can save a lot of time in the drug discovery process, meaning a faster route to clinical trials, and potentially a treatment for patients.”

Professor David Stuart, Director of Life Sciences at the Diamond Light Source and Professor of Structural Biology at Oxford University


Exscientia is using its biosensor technology to screen the drug molecules for effectiveness against Sars-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. Their work will focus on components for viral replication and thee interaction between the virus’s spike protein and a human cell receptor that enables its entry into human cells.

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