Oxford firm awarded £1m from Bill Gates for Covid-19 therapy

Oxford firm awarded £1m from Bill Gates for Covid-19 therapy

07/09/2021

An Oxford firm has won $1.5m to use AI technology to develop new Covid-19 drugs that can treat mutations and other coronaviruses.

Drugs company Exscientia, which recieved the grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, plan to create a drug within a year.

The firm is taking aim at the enzymes that allow the virus behind Covid-19 to replicate.

Research has shown its AI-designed ‘inhibitors’ can successfully target these enzymes.

The new funding will help the firm turn this proof-of-concept tech into a fully-fledged treatment for coronaviruses.

If successful, the new drug could be used as either a standalone treatment or alongside the other drugs already used to treat Covid-19.

Exiscientia is based in Oxford and affiliated with the University of Dundee. Founded in 2012, it aims to speed up the often lengthy drug discovery process with the help of AI.

The firm has already recieved funding from the Gates Foundation for its work on treatments for tuberculosis and malaria, as well as on non-hormonal contraceptives.

It is also involved in research into cancer, immunology, the central nervous system, and genetic mutations.

Exscientia senior portfolio manager Denise Barrault said: ‘The danger of new emerging strains and mutations of coronavirus means there is an urgent need for new antiviral drugs in this pandemic alongside vaccines, to respond more quickly in potential future coronavirus pandemics.

‘We believe that the world needs innovation to accelerate the discovery of more effective counter-measures for a range of infectious diseases, including Covid-19.’

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