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BenevolentAI raises $115m to fund drug development

Its technology could cut the early stage drug discovery process by four years, says the company

BenevolentAIUK artificial intelligence company BenevolentAI has raised $115m in a funding round that takes its valuation above $2bn.

The round is ‘one of the largest in the…AI pharmaceutical sector’ and takes the total funding raised - since it was set up in 2013 - to more than $200m according to the company, which wants to use AI technology to improve and accelerate the drug development process.

The money will go towards bringing its drug candidates through development and extend its AI capabilities, and some will also be used to explore opportunities in other markets such as advanced materials, agriculture, and energy storage.

BenevolentAI currently has 22 validated drug candidate programmes on the go, according to chief executive Ken Mulvany, formerly CEO of Proximagen, who describes the company as “a fully integrated, AI enabled drug development company with the ability to deliver better medicines at previously unimaginable speed”.

Mulvany thinks the pharma AI has split largely into two groups in recent years, with start-ups that apply AI to a very narrow part of the drug discovery process on the one hand, and large tech players developing AI tools for a range of industries that includes pharma on the other.

“I believe we are completely unique in our sector, and the investment community has confirmed their confidence in our approach with the level of investment we announced today, and the valuation they attributed to our business,” he writes in a blog post.

The company thinks its AI “machine brain” can cut early stage drug discovery by four years, and potentially deliver efficiencies in the entire drug development process of 60% against pharmaceutical industry averages.

The company’s lead candidate is bavisant for excessive daytime sleepiness in patients with Parkinson’s disease, which is in phase 2b trials. The drug has been licensed from Johnson & Johnson (J&J), which was originally developing it for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). BenevolentAI put the data on the drug through its AI brain and concluded that one of its side effects - dose-dependent insomnia - could indicate potential in the PD indication.

Existing investors, including Woodford Investment Management, as well as new investors mainly from the US, participated in the fundraising, although their identities are not being disclosed. Credit Suisse acted as the sole placement agent.

Article by
Phil Taylor

20th April 2018

From: Research

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