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No­var­tis teams up with Ox­ford re­searchers to crunch big da­ta in­to clin­i­cal in­sights

Since Vas Narasimhan’s Day 1 as CEO of Novartis, he has championed data science and digital technologies as a key priority at the pharma giant. Almost a year into his tenure, in a recent conversation with the tech VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, he highlighted the abilities to analyze pathology images and centralize clinical trial planning as two promising applications of machine learning.

But, he admitted, there are areas where it’s “simply not met up”:

An­ti-ag­ing start­up Ele­vian en­lists In­sil­i­co on AI quest for 'y­oung blood'

Some of the earliest connections Alex Zhavoronkov has built for his AI shop at Insilico Medicine involves marrying anti-aging and AI research, two of the buzziest areas in drug development. He’s now doubling down on it with a new R&D partnership with “young blood” startup Elevian.

The collaboration is aimed at developing oral medications targeting the GDF11, or growth differentiation factor 11, pathway and associated targets — a concept that Elevian has been working on since inception. Elevian is supplying the biological and structural target data that Insilico will use to identify small molecules via its generative adversarial networks (GANs) and reinforcement learning (RL) AI technologies.

Soft­ware de­vel­op­er Syn­thace rais­es $25.6M to re­al­ize 'com­put­er aid­ed bi­ol­o­gy'

Although calls to turn biology into an engineering discipline have frequently been met with disdain and frustration by industry insiders, new players continue to emerge, undeterred, in search of ways to solve the notoriously inefficient process of drug development where things that work in labs often fail to work in humans.

Synthace, a London-based firm developing software for what it terms “computer aided biology,” wants to be at the forefront of that effort. And it now has $25.6 million in Series B cash to prove it can.

WuXi dives in­to com­pu­ta­tion­al drug dis­cov­ery, launch­es New York-based JV with Schrödinger

Global CRO powerhouse WuXi AppTec has long made it clear that it’s not content just doing outsourced work for its clients. It’s invested in R&D facilities, seeded biotech startups and teamed up with Juno Therapeutics to build a CAR-T company in China. And in its latest move in the US, WuXi is launching a joint drug discovery venture with the computational chemistry experts at Schrödinger.

Bil­lion­aire-backed Ju­ve­nes­cence spins out an­ti-ag­ing, AI start­up Na­pa Ther­a­peu­tics

The billionaire-backed startup Juvenescence — best known for its big plans to tackle aging — is spinning out a new company to develop research out of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging.

The newly formed venture, called Napa Therapeutics, is developing tech from the labs of Eric Verdin, the Buck Institute’s president and CEO. The work is in nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) metabolism, with Napa holding rights to the tech and IP from the institute.

Sam­sung out­lines block­buster in­vest­ment plan for bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, part of a $22B play on next-gen tech

After building up a biosimilars group and branching out into new drug development, Samsung says it plans to make a big push on the biopharmaceuticals front over the next three years, lining up $22 billion to make this one of several growth areas for the conglomerate.

There aren’t a lot of details to go with this. Samsung — under pressure from Chinese rivals — broadly said that it’s ready to wager $22 billion on next-gen technologies, noting a big interest in AI, auto electronics and biopharma, according to the Financial Times.

Back­ers of Tes­la and SpaceX fund 29-year-old Al­ice Zhang's AI-pow­ered neu­ro­science start­up

The battered field of neuroscience has a dogged new player: a team of young, renegade PhDs who say they’re harnessing genomics and artificial intelligence to revive the ailing industry.

The San Francisco venture is called Verge Genomics, and it’s led by a spunky 29-year-old PhD dropout — Alice Zhang — who says she’s determined to push neuroscience R&D out of its decades-long slump. Jumping to her cause is DFJ Ventures, a tech investor who has the likes of Twitter, SpaceX, and Tesla in its portfolio. The VC firm led Verge’s $32 million Series A round, which was announced this morning. It’s not DFJ’s first rodeo in the field, however, as it’s already backed genomics A-listers like Human Longevity and Synthetic Genomics.

AI team at In­sil­i­co gets some ma­jor league back­ing from Chi­na as Alex Zha­voronkov builds glob­al net­work

Some of Asia’s top biotech investors are backing Alex Zhavoronkov’s AI shop at Insilico Medicine.

It’s a long way from a megaround, falling into an unspecified slot in the $5 million to $10 million range, but Zhavoronkov has allied himself with some of the most interesting people in drug development. And he’s using this new money to expand his global network of AI experts as he immediately begins to go after a new raise to back a bigger game plan.

Sci­en­tists set out to build an ul­tra-fast cam­era to cap­ture ef­fect of new can­cer drug tech

Whatever shortcomings the UK biotech scene may have to grapple with on the financing front, the science on display in the Golden Triangle continues to be well advanced.

The Rosalind Franklin Institute — which is using £103 million in government funds to construct a new drug research facility at Harwell, UK — is building a new kind of ultra-fast camera that can record how a new kind of cancer therapy works.

Biotech uni­corn's 'brain' at­tracts a $115M mega-round as in­vestors em­brace AI up­start

Artificial intelligence in drug development is still gaining momentum. Just ask BenevolentAI, which has brought in a new $115 million round for its technology that promises to process vast amounts of bioscience information and churn out new discoveries.

Backed by new, undisclosed investors from the United States as well as existing supporters like Woodford Investment Management, the round puts London-based BenevolentAI at a pre-money valuation of $2 billion. The syndicate features a mix of family offices and some strategic backers but not “more traditional VCs,” TechCrunch reports.