Andrew Lee Hopkins

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Andrew Hopkins
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Born10th October 1971
Alma mater
  • University of Manchester
  • University of Oxford
Known for
  • Drug Discovery
  • Chemoinformatics
  • Chemogenomics

Andrew Lee Hopkins FRSE FRSC FRSB FLSW (born 10th October 1971) is a Welsh technology entrepreneur and biophysicist. He is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Exscientia, a pharmatech company that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to efficiently discover new drugs. At Exscientia, Hopkins oversaw the discovery of the world’s first novel, precision engineered drug generated and optimized by AI, to enter human clinical trials.[1]

Hopkins’s primary research interest is the science of drug discovery. His innovation in modern drug discovery informatics led to the development of machine learning and artificial intelligence to automate the design of drugs.[2][3] Hopkins has pioneered several widely applied drug discovery concepts, such as the druggable genome, network pharmacology and ligand efficiency. [4][5][6][7]

Hopkins is an honorary professor at the School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee, where previous he held the Chair of Medicinal Informatics and was the SULSA Research Professor of Translational Biology.[8][9] He is also the former Director of Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance (SULSA). [10]

Early Life and Education

Hopkins was born in Neath in 1971 to Brian and Barbara Hopkins, the eldest of two sons. He was educated at Dwr-y-Felin Comprehensive School and Neath College. His first summer job at the age of 16 was in the British Steel Welsh Laboratories of the Port Talbot Steelworks. He was the first in his family to attend University and was awarded a scholarship from British Steel to attend the University of Manchester, where he earned a First Class degree in Chemistry, in 1993.[11]

Hopkins has stated, "What I loved about chemistry is that it is the ’liberal science‘ that allows you to go in many different directions, and it seemed like a natural choice to follow my passion”. [11]

At Manchester, he developed an interest for computational chemistry and its pharmaceutical applications. Following a year working for British Steel in surface science, Hopkins began his graduate research at Wadham College, Oxford, University of Oxford in 1994, working with Professor Davi Fellow of the Royal Society in the Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford, investigating crystallographic analysis of the pharmacological inhibition and drug resistance of HIV-1 reverse transcriptase in collaboration with GlaxoWellcome. [11]

In 1998 Hopkins earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Molecular Biophysics from University of Oxford for his thesis on the structure-based design of inhibitors of HIV-1 reverse transcriptase with improved drug resistance properties. Hopkins has stated that much of his future research on automating drug design was inspired by early experiences working on anti-HIV drug design, in Oxford. [11]


Hopkins’ involvement with the HIV structure-based drug design study gave him an insight into the nature of drug discovery, which allowed him to be certain that was the right career path for him. From the University of Oxford, Hopkins directly joined Pfizer in 1998.

He established new functions for Pfizer, such as the Target Analysis Group for researching new potential protein targets, along with Indications Discovery and Knowledge Discovery Group. Hopkins spent several years at Pfizer, where he collaborated with Chris Lipinski (rule of five) and helped others to establish the postulation of "drugmaker genome". He also worked on building data models to allow predictions of protein target effects, drug efficacy and safety.

Hopkins became aware of the new position of SULSA at University of Dundee through Michael Ferguson, Dean of the School of Research at the College of Life Sciences. Hopkins realised that this project may be easier to develop in academia, so he left Pfizer after working there for 10 years and joined the University of Dundee in 2007, where a new drug discovery unit had been established. He was then appointed as the new Director of SULSA in 2011.

He is also the chair of medicinal informatics at University of Dundee and was one of the youngest professors to be appointed to a chair at the University of Dundee. Hopkins had raised £50 million for academic and commercial research activities as the chair of medicinal informatics at University of Dundee. With his own laboratory, Hopkins Lab, his research mainly focuses on the development of new novel informatics and more effective experimental methods for drug discovery. [2][3]

Hopkins’ entrepreneurial skills and 20 years of expertise in drug discovery led him to start a spin-off company, Exscientia, in 2012 - now a leading pharmatech that was first to automate drug discovery to create more efficient and safer drugs. Exscientia applies revolutionary artificial intelligence (AI) technology to the process of data generation for drug discovery, which shortens the preclinical drug discovery stage by at least three quarters. This allows patients to receive new developed treatment at an extraordinary accelerated rate. [5]

Exscientia has a number of partnerships with well-known companies, including deals with GSK, Roche, Celgene, Sanofi and Evotec, estimated to be over £1 billion in total. [6] He is also the Founder and Managing Director at Kinetic Discovery Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Exscientia. [7] Kinetic Discovery focuses on offering drug discovery services including fragment screening, hit identification and kinetic/affinity characterisation.

Hopkins has been the Director of the National Phenotypic Screening Centre since 2016.

Research and Project

Pfizer Following completion of his doctoral research in 1998, Hopkins was recruited to Pfizer by John Overington, a structural bioinformatician, who trained with Sir Tom Blundell FRS at the company’s research and development facility at Sandwich, Kent|Sandwich, Kent. At Pfizer, Hopkins and colleagues invented several important drug discovery concepts that become widely adopted in the field, including the druggable genome – “A systematic analysis of the number of druggable proteins expressed in the human genome” (2002) - and “ligand efficiency” (2004) – a metric which help the development of fragment-based drug design.[7][11][12][13]

Inspired by the serendipitous discovery of the clinical application of sildenafil, in 2000, Hopkins founded the interdisciplinary Indications Discovery Group as one of the industry’s very first computational drug repositioning groups. It involved large-scale texting and ontologies as a hypothesis generation engine to systematically mine the literature and other databases for evidence of target-disease linkages.[14] The text mining system was capable of searching over 120 million hypotheses defined as a matrix of all know diseases against all known protein-encoding genes in the human genome. Pfizer later institutionalized the strategy with the establishment of the Indications Discovery Unit at Pfizer’s St Louise site in 2007. [15][16]

From mapping the ’hypothesis space‘ of the target-disease linkages, Hopkins’ interest extended to systematically mapping the ‘pharmacological’ space of the interplay between chemistry and biology as the next area to be tackled with modern informatics methods. Hopkins and his team built one of the very first large-scale data warehouses in the pharmaceutical industry that was capable of integrating a wide range of pharmacological data sources to give the first comprehensive analysis of “pharmacological space” linking chemistry to protein sequences. [2][17] This creation enabled the calculation of some of the first large-scale panels in machine learning models, based on chemical structure-activity data against hundreds of drug targets. [2]

Hopkins has stated that this work lay the foundational data layer for his work on the subsequent development of artificial intelligence methods in drug design.[18][19]

The large-scale data integration uncovered evidence of the wide-spread occurrence of polyphamacology amongst small molecule drugs, which led Hopkins to formulate the concept of network pharmacology to further expand the therapeutic potential of small molecule drugs. [2][6]

University of Dundee

In 2007, Hopkins was recruited by Professor Sir Michael Ferguson FRS to the University of Dundee, where he was appointed the SULSA (Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance) Research Professor of Translational Biology and Chair of Medicinal Informatics in the School of Life Sciences (University of Dundee); subsequently he was one of the youngest professors to be appointed to chair there. [10] Hopkins has commented that the move from Pfizer to the University of Dundee, “was partly a strategic move on my part, considering the grander scale trends or structural changes taking place in pharma” with “Academia gives you a much longer tenure and allows you to think about the deep problems”. [19]

Hopkins’ research activities at Dundee focus on developing advanced informatics and experimental methods to enable new, more effective ways of conducting drug discovery. Within his first month at arriving at Dundee, he worked with Professor Dame Janet Thornton FRS, Director of the European Bioinformatics Institute. There, Hopkins initiated efforts to persuade the Wellcome Trust to invest almost £5 million in 2008 to create an open access database for medicinal chemistry data, to put more data into the public domain and “spur innovation.”[19][20]

In 2010, this initiative eventually became the ChEMBL database. Led by John Overington and housed at the EBI, a fundamental data infrastructure in machine learning was developed in the field of drug discovery. [19][21] He and his team, Jérémy Besnard and G. Richard Bicketon, set out to mimic the iterative drug design process of medicinal chemists by using evolutionary computing and machine learning. The work demonstrated that artificial intelligence methods could design de novo and optimize novel compounds towards a multi-dimensional objective of multi-target protein signatures and pharmacokinetic criteria. [8]

In 2011, Hopkins was appointed as the Director of Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance (SULSA) to represent the pooled life sciences strategy of the Universities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews and Strathclyde.[22] As Director of SULSA, Hopkins was instrumental in leading the creation of several large-scale science infrastructure projects in Scotland in collaboration with the Scottish Funding Council and the Scottish Government. In 2013, Hopkins lead the consortium that resulted in the establishment of the European Lead Factory, (ELF) at the Newhouse Research Site, Glasgow, Scotland, reviving drug discovery at the former Merck & Co.|Merck R&D site. [23] In 2014, Hopkins co-founded the UK National Phenotypic Screening Centre (NPSC) with with Peter J. Ratcliffe|Professor Sir Peter Ratcliffe FRS in a partnership with the Scottish Government, the University of Dundee, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Oxford. The NPSC provides academics with access to state of the art, high content imaging and robotic screening facilities at Dundee and Oxford for the development of disease-relevant phenotypic screens for drug discovery. [24]


Exscientia was founded by Hopkins in July 2012 as a spin-out company from the University of Dundee based on his group’s work on automated drug design using artificial intelligence that was published in Nature (journal. [9][25] Led by Hopkins, Exscientia partnered with the Japanese pharmaceutical firm Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma to announce the first ever Phase 1 clinical trials for a drug molecule designed using artificial intelligence, in January 2020. Designated, DSP-1181, the drug is being tested for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). [1]

In March 2020, Exscientia announced a joint initiative to identify Covid-19 antiviral treatments with Diamond Light Source and Scripps Research. [10]

Exscientia was ranked as one of the fastest growing technology companies in the UK in The Sunday Times Tech Track 100, in September 2020.[26]

Honours and Awards

Award Sponsor Year
Pfizer Leadership Award Pfizer 2002
Pfizer Achievement Award Pfizer 2002
Pfizer Team Achievement Award Pfizer 2004
Corwin Hansch Award American Chemical Society 2007
The 3rd Capps Green Zomaya Award in Medicinal or Computational Chemistry Royal Society of Chemistry & the Capps Green Zomaya Trust 2008
Elected as the Fellow Royal Society of Biology 2011
Elected as the Fellow Learned Society of Wales 2014
Life Sciences Entrepreneurial Business Leadership Scottish Enterprise Life Sciences Awards 2015
Commercial Innovator of the Year BBSRC Innovation Award 2015
Elected as the Fellow Royal Society of Edinburgh 2016
Chemistry World Entrepreneur of the Year Award Royal Society of Chemistry 2017
Top 100 British Innovators Sunday Times Maserati 100 2019


  1. 1.0 1.1 Murgia, Madhumita (2020-01-30). "AI-designed drug to enter human clinical trial for first time". Retrieved 2020-09-15.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Paolini, Gaia V.; Shapland, Richard H. B.; van Hoorn, Willem P.; Mason, Jonathan S.; Hopkins, Andrew L. (July 2006). "Global mapping of pharmacological space". Nature Biotechnology. 24 (7): 805–815. doi:10.1038/nbt1228. ISSN 1546-1696.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Besnard, Jérémy; Ruda, Gian Filippo; Setola, Vincent; Abecassis, Keren; Rodriguiz, Ramona M.; Huang, Xi-Ping; Norval, Suzanne; Sassano, Maria F.; Shin, Antony I.; Webster, Lauren A.; Simeons, Frederick R. C. (December 2012). "Automated design of ligands to polypharmacological profiles". Nature. 492 (7428): 215–220. doi:10.1038/nature11691. ISSN 1476-4687.
  4. Hopkins, Andrew L.; Groom, Colin R. (September 2002). "The druggable genome". Nature Reviews Drug Discovery. 1 (9): 727–730. doi:10.1038/nrd892. ISSN 1474-1776.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Illuminating the Druggable Genome | NIH Common Fund". Retrieved 2020-09-15.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Hopkins, Andrew L. (November 2008). "Network pharmacology: the next paradigm in drug discovery". Nature Chemical Biology. 4 (11): 682–690. doi:10.1038/nchembio.118. ISSN 1552-4469.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Hopkins, Andrew L.; Groom, Colin R.; Alex, Alexander (2004-05-15). "Ligand efficiency: a useful metric for lead selection". Drug Discovery Today. 9 (10): 430–431. doi:10.1016/S1359-6446(04)03069-7. ISSN 1359-6446.
  8. 8.0 8.1 ORCID. "Hopkins, A.L. (0000-0003-1977-018X)". Retrieved 2020-09-15.
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Career Snapshots: From industry to academia" (PDF). Retrieved 15 September 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 admin (2013-08-20). "Professor Andrew Hopkins appointed as new Director of SULSA". School of Life Sciences. Retrieved 2020-09-15.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 Houlton2017-07-04T14:07:00+01:00, Sarah. "Amplifying intelligent drug design". Chemistry World. Retrieved 2020-09-15.
  12. Hopkins, Andrew L.; Groom, Colin R. (September 2002). "The druggable genome". Nature Reviews Drug Discovery. 1 (9): 727–730. doi:10.1038/nrd892. ISSN 1474-1784.
  13. Overington, John P.; Al-Lazikani, Bissan; Hopkins, Andrew L. (December 2006). "How many drug targets are there?". Nature Reviews Drug Discovery. 5 (12): 993–996. doi:10.1038/nrd2199. ISSN 1474-1784.
  14. Hopkins, Andrew L.; Keserü, György M.; Leeson, Paul D.; Rees, David C.; Reynolds, Charles H. (February 2014). "The role of ligand efficiency metrics in drug discovery". Nature Reviews Drug Discovery. 13 (2): 105–121. doi:10.1038/nrd4163. ISSN 1474-1784.
  15. Hopkins, Andrew (2004). "Are drugs discovered in the clinic or the laboratory?". Drug Discovery Today: Targets. 5 (3): 173–176. doi:10.1016/S1741-8372(04)02448-X. ISSN 1741-8372.
  16. [1], "System and method for the computer-assisted identification of drugs and indications", issued 2004-09-15 
  17. "Drug repositioning". Retrieved 14 September 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. Lipinski, Christopher; Hopkins, Andrew (December 2004). "Navigating chemical space for biology and medicine". Nature. 432 (7019): 855–861. doi:10.1038/nature03193. ISSN 1476-4687.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 Hopkins, Andrew L.; Polinsky, Alex (2006-01-01), Wood, Anthony (ed.), "Knowledge and Intelligence in Drug Design", Annual Reports in Medicinal Chemistry, Academic Press, vol. 41, pp. 425–437, retrieved 2020-09-15
  20. Hopkins, Andrew L (2008-10-20). "Network pharmacology: the next paradigm in drug discovery". Nature Chemical Biology. 4 (11): 682–690. doi:10.1038/nchembio.118. ISSN 1552-4450.
  21. "SULSA | Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance". Retrieved 2020-09-15.
  22. "Science Scotland". Retrieved 2020-09-15.
  23. "Open access drug discovery database launches with half a million compounds | Wellcome". Retrieved 2020-09-15.
  24. "SULSA press release". Retrieved 15 September 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  25. Ltd, John Wiley & Sons; The Atrium, Southern Gate; Chichester; PO19 8SQ; Tel : 01243 779777; Fax : 01243 770421. "£20m research boost for Scottish biotech | Pharmafile". Retrieved 2020-09-15.
  26. "Phenomics Discovery initiative launched | University of Oxford". Retrieved 2020-09-15.

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