Andrew Hopkins, Exscientia founder and CEO (Exscientia)

Af­ter years of part­ner­ships, AI biotech Ex­sci­en­tia lands first ma­jor fi­nanc­ing round at $60M

Af­ter years rack­ing up part­ner­ships with biotechs and Big Phar­ma, the AI drug de­vel­op­er Ex­sci­en­tia has land­ed its first large fi­nanc­ing round.

The UK-based com­pa­ny raised $60 mil­lion in a Se­ries C round led by No­vo Hold­ings — more than dou­ble the $26 mil­lion it gar­nered in a Se­ries B 18 months ago. The round will help fur­ther the com­pa­ny’s ex­pan­sion in­to the US and fur­ther what it calls, bor­row­ing a term from the soft­ware world, its “full-stack ca­pa­bil­i­ties,” i.e. its abil­i­ty to de­vel­op drugs from the ear­li­est stage to the mar­ket.

Found­ed by Uni­ver­si­ty of Dundee chemist An­drew Hop­kins in 2012, Ex­sci­en­tia has so far large­ly fo­cused on build­ing a com­pu­ta­tion­al plat­form and pro­vid­ing it to help more tra­di­tion­al biotechs and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies find new drugs faster. It’s a com­mon tac­tic for AI biotechs that fo­cused on has­ten­ing the iso­la­tion and con­struc­tion of new drug-like mol­e­cules, a group that in­cludes well-con­nect­ed ri­vals like Atom­wise and In­sil­i­co. Es­sen­tial­ly, these com­pa­nies use ma­chine learn­ing to screen or­ders of mag­ni­tude more com­pounds than con­ven­tion­al screen­ing process­es could, with the goal of short­en­ing the no­to­ri­ous­ly lengthy amount of time it takes to de­vel­op a new drug.

Ex­sci­en­tia’s par­tic­u­lar plat­form, which it calls Cen­taur Chemist, has won a few promi­nent col­lab­o­ra­tions. In Jan­u­ary, they an­nounced a car­di­ol­o­gy dis­cov­ery deal with Bay­er. That was af­ter a psy­chi­a­try deal with Sunovion, an on­col­o­gy and au­toim­mune deal with Cel­gene, an on­col­o­gy deal with Roche, a meta­bol­ic dis­ease deal with Sanofi and a broad deal for up to ten tar­gets across mul­ti­ple ther­a­peu­tic ar­eas with Glax­o­SmithK­line, which last year pro­duced a lead com­pound now in an­i­mal test­ing.

One of the com­pa­ny’s first part­ner­ships, though, came with the Japan­ese de­vel­op­er Sum­it­o­mo Dainip­pon Phar­ma. Ear­li­er this year, that led to a Phase I ex­per­i­men­tal pill for ob­ses­sive com­pul­sive dis­or­der which the two com­pa­nies claimed was the first AI-de­vel­oped drug to en­ter the clin­ic. Al­though the claim has been made by oth­er biotechs, the drug was nev­er­the­less an im­por­tant proof-of-con­cept. It took less than 12 months to go through pre­clin­i­cal test­ing.

Most re­cent­ly, Ex­sci­en­tia has turned its ef­forts to Covid-19. Like oth­er re­searchers, they used their plat­form to screen ex­ist­ing drugs for po­ten­tial ef­fi­ca­cy against the new virus. Specif­i­cal­ly, they have been search­ing a Scripps li­brary of 15,000 drugs with the help of Di­a­mond Light Source, an Ox­ford com­pa­ny that helps sci­en­tists study virus­es by gen­er­at­ing a very bright light that works like a mi­cro­scope.

Mi­no­ryx and Sper­o­genix ink an ex­clu­sive li­cense agree­ment to de­vel­op and com­mer­cial­ize lerigli­ta­zone in Chi­na

September 23, 2020 – Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai (China) and Mataró, Barcelona (Spain)  

Minoryx will receive an upfront and milestone payments of up to $78 million, as well as double digit royalties on annual net sales 

Sperogenix will receive exclusive rights to develop and commercialize leriglitazone for the treatment of X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD), a rare life-threatening neurological condition

FDA chief Stephen Hahn on Capitol Hill earlier this week (Getty Images)

As FDA’s work­load buck­les un­der the strain, Trump again ac­cus­es the agency of a po­lit­i­cal hit job

Peter Marks appeared before a virtual SVB Leerink audience yesterday and said that his staff at FDA’s CBER is on the verge of working around the clock. Manufacturing inspections, policy work and sponsor communications have all been pushed down the to-do list so that they can be responsive to Covid-related interactions. And the agency’s objective right now? “To save as many lives as we can,” Marks said, likening the mortality on the current outbreak as equivalent to “a nuclear bomb on a small city.”

David Berry (Flagship)

Flag­ship's next big tech­no­log­i­cal bet? The cloud

Earlier this month, Flagship announced their big bet on the software half the industry is talking about, launching the AI and machine learning startup. Now, they and a couple other investors are gambling $100 million on a software that much of the public generally thinks of as a cool, IT afterthought: cloud computing.

The idea, says founder and Flagship partner David Berry, is one of scale: The sheer magnitude of biological data that you can store on cloud technology is unprecedented. And that size, when leveraged properly, can allow you to ask questions and form insights that are similarly unprecedented.

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Patrick Enright, Longitude co-founder (Longitude)

As its biotechs hit the pan­dem­ic ex­it, Lon­gi­tude rais­es $585M for new neu­ro, can­cer, ag­ing and or­phan-fo­cused fund

The years have been kind to Longitude Capital. This year, too.

A 2006 spinout of Pequot Capital, its founders started their new firm just four years before the parent company would go under amid insider trading allegations. Their first life sciences fund raised $325 million amid the financial crisis, they added a second for $385 million and then in, 2016, a third for $525 million. In the last few months, the pandemic biotech IPO boom netted several high-value exits from those funds, as Checkmate, Vaxcyte, Inozyme and Poseida all went public.

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The win­dow is wide open as four more biotechs join the go-go IPO class of 2020

It’s another day of hauling cash in the biopharma world as four more IPOs priced Friday and a fifth filed its initial paperwork.

The biggest offering comes from PMV Pharma, an oncology biotech focusing on p53 mutations, which raised $211.8 million after pricing shares at $18 apiece. Prelude Therapeutics, developing PRMT5 inhibitors for rare cancers, was next with a $158 million raise, pricing shares at $19 each. Graybug Vision raised $90 million after pricing at $16 per share for its wet AMD candidates, and breast cancer biotech Greenwich Lifesciences brought up the rear with a small, $7 million raise after pricing shares at $5.75.

J&J of­fers PhI/IIa da­ta show­ing its sin­gle-dose vac­cine can stir up suf­fi­cient im­mune re­sponse

Days after J&J dosed the first participants of its Phase III ENSEMBLE trial, the pharma giant has detailed the early-stage data that gave them confidence in a single-dose regimen.

Testing two dose levels either as a single dose or in a two-dose schedule spaced by 56 days in, the scientists from Janssen, the J&J subsidiary developing its vaccine, reported that the low dose induced a similar immune response as the high dose. The interim Phase I/IIa results were posted in a preprint on medRxiv.

Daniel O'Day, Gilead CEO (Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Play-by-play of Gilead­'s $21B Im­munomedics buy­out de­tails a fren­zied push — and mints a new biotech bil­lion­aire

Immunomedics had not really been looking for a buyout when the year began. Excited by its BLA for Trodelvy, submitted to the FDA in late 2019, executive chairman Behzad Aghazadeh started off looking for potential licensing deals and zeroed in on four potential partners, including Gilead, following January’s JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. Such talks advanced throughout the year, with discussions advancing to the second round in mid-August.

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President Donald Trump reacts after signing an executive order following his remarks on his healthcare policies yesterday in Charlotte, North Carolina (Getty Images)

Op-ed: Will phar­ma re­al­ly pay for Trump’s lat­est law­less promise to 33 mil­lion Medicare ben­e­fi­cia­ries? Not like­ly

Sitting atop the executive branch, President Donald Trump is the ultimate authority at the FDA. He can fast track any vaccine to approval himself. If it came to that, of course.

What he can’t do is unilaterally order the legislative branch to loosen the Treasury’s coffers for $6.6 billion. Nor can he command pharmaceutical companies to pay for $200 vouchers sent to 33 million Medicare beneficiaries for prescription drugs before the election.

Pal­la­dio bags $20 mil­lion Se­ries B to top­ple a prob­lem­at­ic kid­ney dis­ease drug

Palladio Biosciences just took one step further in its quest to topple Otsuka’s Samsca with its own — it hopes safer — autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) drug.

The Pennsylvania-based biotech announced a $20 million Series B on Friday, which will fund a 10-person Phase III trial of its vasopressin V2 receptor agonist, lixivaptan. CEO Alex Martin expects to read out data in the first half of next year, then launch straight into a larger pivotal Phase III study with about 1,200 participants.