$2.3 million grant expected to drive research to harness the host interferon response as a pathway to treating and preventing pandemic influenza
Exscientia plc (Nasdaq: EXAI) announced today that the Company received a $2.3 million grant from Open Philanthropy, a philanthropic funder with several programs in global health and wellbeing. Under this grant, Exscientia aims to harness the activation of the host interferon response as a therapeutic approach for pandemic influenza.
The grant comes in the context of the wider Pandemic Antiviral Discovery (PAD) initiative. Out of the COVID-19 pandemic experience, jointly with the Novo Nordisk Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Open Philanthropy launched the PAD initiative to help catalyse the discovery and early development of novel antiviral medicines in preparation for future pandemics.
“We are thrilled that these expert institutions are supporting Exscientia’s capabilities to develop innovative solutions to address significant unsolved health issues, expressed through this grant,” said Professor Ian Goodfellow, Vice President of Antivirals at Exscientia. “If we manage to ‘turn on’ the interferon response, in a highly controlled manner using small molecule therapeutics, we may be able to transform the way influenza can be treated and prevented in the future – an essential requirement of effective pandemic preparedness.”
The research funded through this grant will allow Exscientia to further explore the requirements for the activation of key aspects of the interferon response of known antiviral effects against influenza and COVID-19. The interferon response is a crucial component of the body’s natural ability to control influenza virus infection. Its activation results in the production of soluble proteins that bind to the surface of epithelial cells that line the respiratory tract and activate an antiviral state, suppressing further viral replication.
This focus aligns with the company’s ongoing commitment to pandemic preparedness, initiated with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2021. Over the long-term, by utilising Exscientia’s AI-led drug discovery platform, the research funded through this grant and any resulting chemical hits may bear potential to be used in the design of potent and specific small molecule drug candidates able to turn on the interferon response in select tissues or cells relevant to influenza virus infection, including future variants and other viruses.
“We are excited to help fund novel approaches to increasing resilient response to infectious disease,” said Heather Youngs, Senior Program Officer for Scientific Research at Open Philanthropy. “The world needs diverse ready options to address general global health needs and to prevent future pandemics and all their dire consequences.”
Exscientia is an AI-driven precision medicine company committed to discovering, designing and developing the best possible drugs in the fastest and most effective manner. Exscientia developed the first-ever functional precision oncology platform to successfully guide treatment selection and improve patient outcomes in a prospective interventional clinical study, as well as to progress AI-designed small molecules into the clinical setting. Our internal pipeline is focused on leveraging our precision medicine platform in oncology, while our partnered pipeline broadens our approach to other therapeutic areas. By pioneering a new approach to medicine creation, we believe the best ideas of science can rapidly become the best medicines for patients.
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