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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.

SF tech start­up Atom­wise gets $45M for AI-pow­ered drug de­sign soft­ware

A Sil­i­con Val­ley soft­ware com­pa­ny that’s us­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence to take the guess work out of struc­ture-based drug de­sign is trot­ting out a siz­able Se­ries A round this morn­ing. The deal in­cludes in­vestors that run the gamut, from tech to bio­phar­ma to agro­chem­i­cals.

The com­pa­ny is called Atom­wise, and it’s haul­ing in $45 mil­lion in a round led by Mon­san­to Growth Ven­tures, tech in­vestors DCVC (Da­ta Col­lec­tive), and B Group Cap­i­tal – the VC fund found­ed by Face­book co-founder Ed­uar­do Saverin.

What's up at stealthy Cal­i­co Labs? AI star Daphne Koller makes an abrupt ex­it as top team shrinks

When the not­ed AI ex­pert and ex-Stan­ford star Daphne Koller was re­cruit­ed to Google’s Cal­i­co Labs in 2016, it fit in­to an up­beat nar­ra­tive about how Arthur Levin­son was build­ing an amaz­ing team of top pro­fes­sion­als to pi­o­neer an­ti-ag­ing re­search. A few days ago, though, Koller abrupt­ly left the com­pa­ny and that nar­ra­tive is get­ting some fresh scruti­ny in R&D cir­cles.

“I have de­cid­ed to leave Cal­i­co to pur­sue oth­er pro­fes­sion­al op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Koller said in an emailed state­ment to Bloomberg, which first re­port­ed the de­par­ture. “I very much en­joyed my time at Cal­i­co, and have the great­est re­spect for the Cal­i­co team and their im­por­tant and as­pi­ra­tional mis­sion.”

Johns Hop­kins spin­out spot­lights a show­case an­i­mal test for an­ti­body-lig­and I/O traps — match­ing check­points with a rein on Tregs

With the block­buster pop­u­lar­i­ty of PD-1/L1 check­points chang­ing the way tu­mors are treat­ed around the world, the spot­light in re­search has shift­ed away from the suc­cess­ful though lim­it­ed and some­what crude first gen­er­a­tion of these ther­a­pies to new ways to amp up their ef­fi­ca­cy and dura­bil­i­ty.

One of the key hur­dles, in­ves­ti­ga­tors have found, is the gen­er­a­tion of reg­u­la­to­ry T cells — Tregs — that sup­press the im­mune re­sponse to can­cer cells. And now a re­search team at Johns Hop­kins led by At­ul Be­di, a prac­tic­ing on­col­o­gist and as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­si­ty School of Med­i­cine, say they have de­vel­oped an an­ti­body/lig­and with a bi­fur­cat­ed war­head that can do a bet­ter job on the check­point side while blunt­ing the Tregs that both pre­vent ef­fi­ca­cy as well as help trig­ger a grad­ual loss of po­ten­cy, lead­ing to re­cur­rence.