Billing itself as the first AI biotech to launch human trials, Recursion adds $121M C round
Billing itself as the first AI biotech with programs in the clinic, Salt Lake City-based Recursion now has a $121 million bankroll to start gathering human data to see if it’s on the right track.
“We’re trying to build this discovery engine,” Recursion CEO Chris Gibson tells me ahead of the C round news. “We now have the first two programs in the clinic.” And that, he adds, qualifies as a first for any AI establishment “that actually have something in the clinic.”
While a buzzy AI field is billed by many as the next big tech wave bound to influence the identification and development of new drugs, tapping into a growing mountain of data to find clues on where and how to look for new drugs, Recursion’s two lead programs fit more in line with long-established drug development norms.
Gibson readily concedes that one of his 2 clinical stage drugs, REC-994 for cerebral cavernous malformation, came out of the lab of co-founder Dean Li, now head of translational research at Merck. REC-2282 for neurofibromatosis type 2 was in-licensed from Ohio State some months ago, after a failed Arno simply handed it back to the university following their decision to liquidate. It’s not hard to find the drug via Google, and the earlier work done in neurofibromatosis in 2011.
That may not be a classic AI/machine learning play, says Gibson, but it does reflect the company’s ability when it comes to what he calls “data arbitrage.”
“Most of the industry has thought of AI discovery, making some chemical structure,” says the CEO. “We don’t need to know the target; we use our platform to find applications that people wouldn’t expect.”
And he says he’s built a workforce of 152 — massive by startup standards — to create a platform that does comply more closely with what we’ve come to expect in an AI/ML biotech.
Says Gibson: “Now that the company has grown we are now doing computational chemistry.”
Gibson is quick to tout the highlights of the biotech’s fast growth; from the rapid addition of new staffers, their 100,000-square-foot facility in a converted Dick’s Sporting Goods facility in downtown Salt Lake City and an option from Takeda on candidates for 2 rare diseases.
The new money in the C round announced today comes from a host of nontraditional biotech investors. Baillie Gifford’s Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust led the round, with Intermountain Ventures, Regents of the University of Minnesota, Texas Tech University System, and select angel investors coming in for the first time. All prior institutional investors participated, including Lux Capital, Data Collective, Mubadala Ventures, Two Sigma Ventures, Obvious Ventures, Felicis Ventures, Epic Ventures, Menlo Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures, and CRV.
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