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.

IDC: Life Sci­ences Firms Must Em­brace Dig­i­tal Trans­for­ma­tion Now

Pre-pandemic, the life sciences industry had settled into a pattern. The average drug took 12 years and $2.9 billion to bring to market, and it was an acceptable mode of operations, according to Nimita Limaye, Research Vice President for Life Sciences R&D Strategy and Technology at IDC.

COVID-19 changed that, and served as a proof-of-concept for how technology can truly help life sciences companies succeed and grow, Limaye said. She recently spoke about industry trends at Egnyte’s Life Sciences Summit 2022. You should watch the entire session, free and on-demand, but here’s a brief recap of why she’s urging life sciences companies to embrace digital transformation.

Tom Barnes, Orna Therapeutics CEO

UP­DAT­ED: 'We have failed to fail': Mer­ck gam­bles $250M cash on a next-gen ap­proach to mR­NA — af­ter punt­ing its big al­liance with Mod­er­na

Merck went in deep on its collaboration with Moderna on new mRNA programs, and dropped them all over time, including their RSV partnership. But after writing off what turned out as one of the most successful infectious disease players in the business, Merck is coming in this morning with a new preclinical alliance — this time embracing a biotech that hopes to eventually outdo the famously successful mRNA in a new run at vaccines and therapeutics.

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Bayer's first DTC ad campaign for chronic kidney disease drug Kerendia spells out its benefits

Bay­er aims to sim­pli­fy the com­plex­i­ties of CKD with an ABC-themed ad cam­paign

Do you know the ABCs of CKD in T2D? Bayer’s first ad campaign for Kerendia tackles the complexity of chronic kidney disease with a play on the acronym (CKD) and its connection to type 2 diabetes (T2D).

Kerendia was approved last year as the first and only non-steroidal mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist to treat CKD in people with type 2 diabetes.

In the TV commercial launched this week, A is for awareness, B is for belief and C is for cardiovascular, explained in the ad as awareness of the connection between type 2 and kidney disease, belief that something can be done about it, and cardiovascular events that may be reduced with treatment.

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James Mock, incoming CFO at Moderna

Mod­er­na taps new CFO from PerkinElmer af­ter for­mer one-day CFO oust­ed

When Moderna hired a new CFO last year,  it didn’t expect to see him gone after only one day. Today the biotech named his — likely much more vetted — replacement.

The mRNA company put out word early Wednesday that after the untimely departure of then brand-new CFO Jorge Gomez, it has now found a replacement in James Mock, the soon-to-be former CFO at diagnostics and analytics company PerkinElmer.

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Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division

GSK lands first-ever UNICEF con­tract for malar­ia vac­cine worth $170M

GSK has landed a new first from UNICEF the first-ever contract for malaria vaccines, worth up to $170 million for 18 million vaccine doses distributed over the next three years.

The vaccine, known as Mosquirix or RTS,S, won WHO’s backing last October after a controversial start, but UNICEF said these doses will potentially save thousands of lives every year.

“We hope this is just the beginning,” Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division, said. “Continued innovation is needed to develop new and next-generation vaccines to increase available supply, and enable a healthier vaccine market. This is a giant step forward in our collective efforts to save children’s lives and reduce the burden of malaria as part of wider malaria prevention and control programmes.”

Joe Jonas (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

So­lo Jonas broth­er car­ries Merz's new tune in Botox ri­val cam­paign

As the lyrics of his band’s 2019 pop-rock single suggest, Joe Jonas is only human — and that means even he gets frown lines. The 33-year-old singer-songwriter is Merz’s newest celebrity brand partner for its Botox rival Xeomin, as medical aesthetics brands target a younger audience.

Merz kicked off its “Beauty on Your Terms” campaign on Tuesday, featuring the Jonas brother in a video ad for its double-filtered anti-wrinkle injection Xeomin.

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Joel Dudley, new partner at Innovation Endeavors (Tempus Labs)

For­mer Google CEO’s VC is mak­ing a big­ger push in­to the biotech world, hir­ing promi­nent Ther­a­nos skep­tic

Venture capital firm Innovation Endeavors has mainly had its focus on investments across the tech space, but it has been slowly turning its attention to the biotech world. Now, a new partner is coming into the fold showing that its interest in biotech is likely to grow further.

The Silicon Valley-based company, which is headed up by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, has brought on Joel Dudley as a partner. According to Dudley’s LinkedIn page, he is joining Innovation Endeavors after serving as the chief science officer of biotech startup Tempus Labs from 2020.

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Paul Perreault, CSL Behring CEO

CSL CEO Paul Per­reault de­ter­mined to grow plas­ma col­lec­tion af­ter full-year sales dip

As the ink dries on CSL’s $11.7 billion Vifor buyout, the company posted a dip in profits, due in part to a drop in plasma donations amid the pandemic.

However, CEO Paul Perreault assured investors and analysts on the full-year call that the team has left “no stone unturned” when assessing options to grow plasma volumes. The chief executive also spelled out positive results for the company’s monoclonal antibody garadacimab in hereditary angioedema (HAE), though he isn’t revealing the exact numbers just yet.

Blaise Coleman, Endo International CEO

En­do files for Chap­ter 11 as it looks to fin­ish off its opi­oid lit­i­ga­tion

Irish drugmaker Endo International is entering into bankruptcy as it faces the weight of serious litigation related to its involvement in the opioid epidemic in the US.

The company has filed Chapter 11 proceedings in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, with the company expected to file recognition proceedings in Canada, the UK and Australia. The company’s bankruptcy filing showed the company had assets and liabilities in the range of $1 billion to $10 billion.