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Industry Developments Q3 2020

Biggest investment deals Q4 2019 — Q3 2020

In 2020, investment deals decreased by 16% compared to 2019, most probably due to pandemic-induced recession. However, cumulative investments in AI for drug discovery had reached $5.2 billion. Moreover, startups leveraging AI for drug discovery continued to attract investors. Some of the major deals included: 

 

  • insitro with their $143 million (Series B); 

 

  • XtalPi with $319 million (Series C); 

 

  • Atomwise with $123 million (Series B); 

 

  • Recursion Pharmaceuticals with $239 million (series D);

 

  • AbCellera with the sum of $105 million (Series B).

 

If AI companies provide more evidence and successful studies demonstrating the functionality and value of their solutions, especially regarding the COVID-19 crisis, investors and pharma partners will probably consider increasing the number and sums of the investment deals in the future.

 

Additionally, the growing biotechnology industry is expected to provide growth opportunities for AI companies in terms of collaborations and partnerships.

Industry Developments Q4 2019 — Q3 2020

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SEP 2020
  • AI start-up, Deep6, secured $17 Million from Point72 Ventures to accelerate patient recruitment. According to the Forbes, the Deep6’s AI-powered platform is valued at $50 million and is able to find patient for the clinical trial in minutes, whereas this process usually takes months. Deep6 applies natural language processing to extract data from electronic medical records, pathology reports, physicians notes, and other documentation.

 

  • AstraZeneca intends to open AI and drug research centers in China and make a $1 billion capital infusion into Chinese biotech innovations. The global R&D center will be opened in Shanghai, where research will be focused on diseases prevalent in China. China is already the second market for AstraZeneca after the United States, and sales in China continue to grow.

 

  • Page raised $45 M to accelerate cancer research. The round was led by Healthcare Venture Partners, with the participation of previous investor Breyer CapitalKenan Turnacioglu, and others. Page's artificial intelligence technology for mapping cancer pathology was developed by Dr. Thomas Fuchs, also known as the "father of computational biology."  The company also has access to the repository of 25 million pathology slides owned by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, which is the perfect material to feed the AI engine.

 

  • Exscientia has entered a 3-year $266 million agreement with Bayer. The partnership will leverage AI to accelerate the discovery of small molecules candidates programs for oncology and cardiovascular diseases.

 

  • The first drug developed using artificial intelligence by Exscientia in partnership with Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma is entering Phase I clinical trial for the treatment of the obsessive-compulsive disorder. The drug, called DSP-1181, was discovered using Exscientia proprietary Centaur Chemist technology. The clinical trials will start in Japan, and  Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma will add DSP-1181 to its psychiatry and neurology pipeline.

 

  • Deep Genomics, a Toronto-based start-up, raised $40M in Series B funding round. The round was led by Future Ventures with the participation of Amplitude Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Magnetic Ventures, and True Ventures. The Deep Genomics software, Saturn, is used to identify and better understand drug targets, especially ones that are thought to be undruggable. The company hopes two programs will be advanced to the IND application in 2020. 

  • Schrödinger enters a 5-year agreement with Bayer to work on a new virtual platform for small molecules design, which will be able to design and screen synthetically feasible compounds. The collaboration will be built on Schrödinger’s machine learning and molecular design technologies, while Bayer will provide in silico model for predicting the pharmacological properties of the molecules.

  • Insilico will work with Pfizer to collect real-world-data for targets in multiple therapeutic areas.

  • Schrödinger, a chemical software company, raised $232M in IPO. Several drug candidates that are currently developing by the pharmaceutical companies were discovered using Schrödinger’s software. In the future, the company will focus on the expanding of its software applications and bringing up new customers. The company is also developing its own pipeline for oncological indications.

  • Scientists from MIT discovered one the most powerful antibiotic known to date using Artificial Intelligence. The algorithm was trained on 2500 existing antibiotics and was able to screen more than one hundred million molecules in several days. This is an absolute breakthrough in antibiotic discovery, the area that is now facing the problem of multi-resistance of bacteria strains. The new antibiotic, called halicin, was able to kill 35 types of potentially deadly bacteria.

  • Lunit, a Korean start-up, has raised $26M in its series C funding led by Korea’s Shinhan Investment, followed by InterVest, IMM Investment, Kakao Ventures, and China’s Legend Capital of Lenovo Group. With the new funding, Lunit plans to increase the global sales of its AI products — Lunit INSIGHT CXR for analyzing chest X-rays images and Lunit INSIGHT MMG for mammography. Additionally, the fund will support the development of the AI tool for analyzing cancer pathological tissue slides — Lunit SCOPE.

  • BenchSci raised $22 million in financial round B, bringing the company to $45 million of total funding. Besides raising a new round, the company announced the launch of its new AI-powered reagent selection product and the expansion of the agreement with Novartis. Another BenchSci’s product, AI-Assisted Antibody Selection, uses AI to search for data on published antibodies and can select antibodies in 30 seconds instead of 12 weeks. The fund will help BenchSci to develop its products and accelerate drug testing.

  • Qure.ai has secured $16 million from Sequoia Capital India and Singapore-based MassMutual Ventures Southeast Asia. Qure.ai is an artificial intelligence provider of automated interpretation of radiology images: X-rays, CTs, and MRI scans.

  • Atomwise enters into a research collaboration with a Korean clinical-stage biotech Bridge Biotherapeutics. Atomwise will apply structure-based AI technology to evaluate and initiate programs for Pellino E3 ubiquitin ligases and other targets.

  • Alibaba Cloud launched a series of AI solutions to help fight the coronavirus infection. The three of them are available for free for research institutes and medical specialists worldwide. The solutions were created by the joint work of Alibaba Cloud, Alibaba DAMO Academy, and DingTalk. These include Epidemic Prediction Solution, CT Image Analytics Solution, Genome Sequencing for Coronavirus Diagnostic Solution, and Elastic High-Performance Computing (E-HPC) Solution for Life Sciences. The last was built especially for Computational and AI-driven drug discovery, as well as for other life science applications, and has been applying by 20 research groups in China.

  • Schrödinger enters a 3-year collaboration with Google Cloud to leverage the supercomputer power for speeding up Schrödinger’s molecular modeling platform. Schrödinger has ambitious plans to hire thousands of professors to be able to run simulations for billion compounds per week. The agreement is following Schrödinger’s IPO last month, where the company raised  $232 million. The purpose of this collaboration is targeting DNA damage response pathways and related cancers with small molecules. The company has plans to start IND-enabling, preclinical studies in 2021.

  • Reverie Labs enters a multi-target partnership with Roche to discover next-generation kinase inhibitors. The company will apply its expertise to screen, generate hits, and perform hit-to-lead optimization together with scientists at Roche and Genentech. The kinases are perfect objects to drain ML models, as there is a lot of published data about them.

  • BenevolentAI predicted the repurposed drug for treating coronavirus, that entered Phase III clinical trials. This drug, called Baricitinib, was developed by Eli Lilly and Incyte and approved for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis under the “Olumiant” name. Benevolent claims that it took only 1,5 hours to run it’s AI algorithms and 3 days of manual work to predict this molecule.

  • Insilico collaborates with Boehringer Ingelheim to help to discover new targets within the Boehringer’s Research Beyond Borders initiative, created to expand areas and the geographies of the company’s drug discovery collaborations. Insilico will provide its generative models and machine learning programs and give access to its new Pandomic platform to facilitate visualization of omics data connected to signaling pathways and disease profiling.

  • insitro, a machine learning-driven drug discovery company, raised $143 million in Series B financing. The round was led by Andreessen Horowitz, with the participation of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments) and other funds. The investment will be used to further develop the company's technology and automation, which allows the in-house generation of a massive amount of biological data to train algorithms and built predictive disease models. The company also plans to advanced biomarker development and personalized therapeutics.

 

  • AbCellera received $105 Million Series B Financing from OrbiMed, DCVC Bio, and an investor syndicate that includes Viking Global Investors, Peter Thiel, Founders Fund, Eli Lilly, University of Minnesota, and Presight Capital. By applying AI, AbCellera is transforming the area of antibody discovery. The investments will be used to improve and expand their technology creating new tools and to develop new therapeutic modalities. AbCellera successfully developed 55 drug candidates, including targeting GPCRs and ion channels.

 

  • Exscientia has raised $60M in financial round C. The round was led by Novo Holdings, Evotec, Bristol Myers Squibb, and GT Healthcare Capital. Proceeds will be used to expand the company’s drug discovery pipeline and to built “full-stack” capabilities. Additionally, Exscientia plans to expand its presence to the USA market. The company is also involved in the coronavirus pandemic fight, as it partnered with Calibr and Diamond Light Source to develop an anti-Sars-Cov-2 treatment.

 

  • Boehringer Ingelheim partners with BERG to investigate inflammatory diseases, particularly inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn’s disease, find the causes, develop new biomarkers, targets, and new drugs. BERG CEO Niven Narain emphasizes that it is a biology company that has wet lab facilities for data generation, applies a mathematical approach distinct from machine learning, and has 2 drugs in companies portfolio that have been advanced to the clinic.

 

  • Immunai has raised $20M in a seed round from Viola Group and TLV Partners to map the entire immune system. The startup combines machine-learning and single-cell technologies to map immune cells and their functions. The technology was developed to profile immune cells from blood samples, support biomarker discovery, and investigate the cellular response to the cancer immunotherapies. This research will help to improve immunotherapies, as even a slight variation in immunotherapies can bring to dramatically different patient responses.

  • Owkin raised $18 M in Series A financing. The investment was made by Mubadala Capital and Bpifrance, through the bank’s Large Venture fund. The company will continue to develop its platform aimed to make the drug discovery process more collaborative. The platform utilizes imaging, genomic, and clinical data and connects researchers from industry and academia, clinicians, and other players. 

  • Cyclica secured $17M in financing round B from Drive Capital with the participation of Chiesi Farmaceutici, GreenSky Capital, and members of Cyclica's management team. This Toronto-based start-up developed two platforms — Ligand Design and Ligand Express that predict molecular properties via applying deep learning technology.

  • Google partners with a fresh start-up, ZebiAI, to launch Chemome initiative. Previously, Google and X-Chem demonstrated a new approach for finding biologically active compounds — a combination of DNA encoded libraries screening technology and virtual screening using a graph convolutional neural network developed by Google. 

  • Yale School of Medicine and AI therapeutics launched Phase II clinical trials of a new anti-Sars-Cov-2 drug “LAM-002A”. The drug, also called apilimod, has been shown to prevent the virus from entering cells. Previously LAM-002A proved safety for the treatment of lymphoma and autoimmune diseases, and it is being repurposed for coronavirus treatment after AI Therapeutics screened about 13,000 existing drugs against two strains of Sars-Cov-2. The study results were published in Nature.

  • Lantern Pharma announced an agreement with leading contract manufacturing companies to prepare for the start of Phase II and Phase I clinical trials of its two anti-cancer drug candidates. The first candidate - LP-300, that was developed against non-small cell lung cancer among never-smoker, is entering the Phase II clinical trial stage. The second candidate, LP-184, developed to treat a specific type of solid tumor and glioblastoma multiforme, is anticipated to enter Phase I stage at the end of 2021 or in early 2022. Latent hopes that annual sales of this drug will be accounted for $3.5 billion USD by 2025. Both drug candidates were created using RADR® A.I. platform, which combines ML methods, genomics, and computational biology to unveil drugs MoA and discover biomarkers for precision oncology.

  • Global Open Science project COVID Moonshot was launched by the international consortium of industrial and academic partners, including AI-driven startup PostEra. The goal of this initiative is to create novel anti-COVID drugs, including attempts to block SARS-Cov-2 main protease. The project is managed by PostEra, the start-up that applies AI to prioritize ideas and find optimal synthesis routes.

  • Atomwise raised $123 million in a round B of financing led by B Capital Group and Sanabil Investments, also including DCVC, BV, Tencent, Y Combinator, Dolby Family Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures, and 2 top insurance companies. The investment will be used to start the company’s own drug discovery pipeline, extend the market, and develop new partnerships with pharmaceutical companies.

  • IBM introduced a new cloud platform — RoboRXN, which is a free AI-enabled chemical service for the prediction of molecule interactions and the discovery of new drugs. The platform will be primarily used to discover compounds against coronavirus proteins. RoboRXN combines artificial intelligence, cloud technologies, and automation for organic chemistry. Additionally, new organic reactions might be discovered using the platform. The platform can work remotely and analyze commands copied from literature by chemists.

  • Chinese tech giant Baidu plots an AI-baked drug discovery startup, looking for investors to collectively infuse $2B in. The start-up is planned to be a standalone company, but not Baidu’s subsidiary. Baidu has previously invested in other AI startups — Atomwise, Insilico, and Polaris Biology.

  • XtalPi, a Chinese pharmaceutical tech company, has raised $319M in funding round C, which was led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, PICC Capital, and Chinese firm MorningSide Venture Capital. The funding will be used for the further development of XtalPi’s Intelligent Digital Drug Discovery and Development (ID4) platform, which combines artificial intelligence, quantum mechanics, and high-performance cloud computing algorithms to predict activities of small molecule drug candidates, solid-form selection, and other critical aspects of drug development.

  • Recursion Pharmaceuticals raises $239M in series D funding round. This includes $50 million from Bayer’s investment arm Leaps and funds from Casdin Capital, Baillie Gifford, and others. Recursion has also entered in drug discovery collaboration with Bayer to develop new treatments against fibrotic diseases of different organs. Recursion will receive $30M of upfront payment and could potentially receive $100M milestones for each discovery program and royalties on future sales.

  • The MELODY (Machine Learning Ledger Orchestration for Drug Discovery) project initiated by 10 major pharmaceutical companies achieved its first goal — the deploying of a drug discovery platform. Together with Nvidia and Owkin, these companies are building the federated learning solution where AI can be trained on desperate datasets from different sites without the need to collect data together.

  • Exscientia teams up with Huadong Medicine for the small molecules oncology program. The project is focused on DNA damage repair and specifically investigates the transcription control of DNA damage response genes, which disruption leads to the mutation accumulations. Both companies will share the responsibilities for the project. To design new molecules, Exscientia will apply the Centaur Chemist AI platform, which allows to design new molecules and prioritize them for synthesis. Meanwhile, Huadong Medicine will apply its expertise to generate data and improve Exscientia’s AI design in a closed-loop cycle.

  • Insilico Medicine is launching a new target and drug discovery platform Pandomics, that is the part of the Pharma.ai. The platform enables to analyse and interpret OMICS data without having an experience in bioinformatics and computational biology. The technology has been developing for 6 years,  and proved itself in several collaborations and Insilico’s own drug development programs.

  • Taisho Pharmaceutical and Insilico have entered into a research collaboration to identify novel therapeutics against aging. Insilico Medicine will utilize both the target discovery and generative chemistry parts of its Pharma.AI platform in this collaboration. It will use its proprietary Pandomics Discovery Platform to identify novel targets for senolytic drugs and Chemistry42 platform for a molecular generation.

OCT 2020