Japanese company Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma and UK-based artificial intelligence (AI) drug discovery company Exscientia have advanced their first joint drug candidate, DSP-1181, into clinical development.

The AI drug candidate was developed using Exscientia’s Centaur Chemist AI drug discovery platform in combination with Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma’s monoamine G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) drug discovery expertise.

Monoamine GPCR drug discovery involves targeting GPCR, endogenous ligands of monoamine neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.

According to the partners, the exploratory research phase of the project completed within 12 months compared to the usual average of 4.5 years with standard research.

DSP-1181 acts as a long-acting serotonin 5-HT1A receptor agonist. The companies have launched a Phase I clinical trial of the AI drug candidate in Japan to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma senior executive research director Toru Kimura said: “Exscientia’s sophisticated AI drug discovery technologies combined with our company’s deep experience in monoamine GPCR drug discovery, allowed us to work synergistically, delivering a highly successful outcome.

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“We will continue to work hard to make this clinical study a success so that it may deliver new benefits to patients as soon as possible.”

The drug candidate expands Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma’s psychiatry and neurology pipeline.

Exscientia CEO Andrew Hopkins said: “This project’s rapid success was through strong alignment of the integrated knowledge and experiences in chemistry and pharmacology on monoamine GPCR drug discovery at Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma with our AI technologies.

“We are proud that our AI drug discovery platform Centaur Chemist has contributed to generate DSP-1181 and look forward to its progression as a treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder.”

Last March, Exscientia entered into AI drug discovery alliance with US-based biotech company Celgene.