Exscientia has announced a three-year Artificial Intelligence (AI) drug discovery collaboration with Celgene, focused on accelerating drug discovery in oncology and autoimmunity.

The partnership will be one of the largest AI drug discovery deals in the industry, including an initial $25 million upfront payment, with Exscientia being eligible to receive significant milestone and royalty payments based on the success of the programme and future sales.

The key goal of the collaboration is to apply AI to improve the speed of delivery of new treatments for patients by using Exscientia’s cutting-edge Centaur Chemist AI drug discovery platform, which has demonstrated its unparalleled capabilities on multiple projects and its ability to reduce the timelines by at least three-quarters to discover pre-clinical drug candidates.

Professor Andrew Hopkins, CEO of Exscientia, commented: “We’re incredibly proud to collaborate with Celgene and to sign another partnership with a key industry player, reinforcing our place at the forefront of AI drug discovery. Today, patients can wait more than ten years from initial drug discovery to its availability as a treatment. With autoimmune diseases and cancer rates increasing, the pharmaceutical industry’s R&D productivity needs to dramatically improve – and technology is a key part of this.

“Since our pioneer Nature papers in the field, we have been developing our AI platform on the principle that AI combined with human creativity can significantly accelerate the drug discovery process and thus drastically improve access of new drugs to the market. We’re excited to work with Celgene to drive this transformational change in new therapeutic areas.”

The deal extends Exscientia’s list of partnerships with blue chip pharma and biotech companies, with existing collaborations already involving Roche, GSK, Sanofi and Evotec.

It currently takes 13 years from the birth of the idea of a drug to its availability as a treatment, but Exscientia’s approach of combining AI with human creativity delivers tangible results by reducing the pre-clinical trial stage from five years to as little as one year.