Oxford firm to screen 15,000 drugs in search for coronavirus cure

1 Apr, 2020
Via The Guardian, Julia Kollewe write: Oxford firm to screen 15,000 drugs in search for coronavirus cure

Exscientia to use AI to hunt through compounds which have passed human trials

An Oxford-based firm that uses artificial intelligence to develop new medicines has teamed up with a UK national science facility to screen more than 15,000 drugs for their effectiveness as a treatment for Covid-19.

Exscientia, a spinoff company from the University of Dundee that is now based in Oxford science park, said it had gained access to a large collection of existing drugs held by the Scripps research institute in California and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It will screen them in partnership with Diamond Light Source near Oxford, which works like a giant microscope and generates bright light that allows scientists to study viruses.

Exscientia 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, Prof Andrew Hopkins, the firm’s chief executive, told the Guardian. 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 drug collection, which comprises more than 15,000 compounds that have been approved and tested for human safety in clinical trials or pre-clinical studies, has been shipped from California to Oxford.

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