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Andrew Radin, Aria Pharmaceuticals CEO (Aria)

An­drew Radin or­ches­trates his AI dis­cov­ery plat­for­m's piv­ot to R&D with a har­mo­nious name change and eyes on the clin­ic

Andrew Radin was a straight A student. So when he stopped turning in assignments in Nigam Shah’s class at Stanford University, the professor knew something was up.

“If you don’t hand in assignments, you’re gonna fail,” Radin recalls Shah saying one day after class. “Everything alright at home?”

Little did Shah know that a project Radin did for another class had piqued the interest of Andreessen Horowitz’s Vijay Pande, who also taught at the university. As a biomedical informatics student, Radin was looking at how technology could be used to comb through large swaths of data and find drug-target matches — and Pande offered him the first investment from his new $200 million biotech fund to turn the platform into a company.

Fu­eled with a fresh half-bil­lion dol­lars as AI in­vest­ments boom, Ex­sci­en­tia is hit­ting the gas on drug de­vel­op­ment

Can AI revolutionize the way new drugs are found and developed? For Exscientia, that’s now the half-billion-dollar question.

It hasn’t been two months since Exscientia expanded its Series C round, but the decade-old machine learning outfit is already back at the venture well, this time pulling in up to $525 million for its AI platform and pipeline.

The raise includes a $252 Series D round, plus a $300 million equity investment by SoftBank that can be drawn at the company’s discretion. The SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led the Series D, with a hand from Novo Holdings, BlackRock, Mubadala Investment, Farallon Capital, Casdin Capital, GT Healthcare Capital, Marshall Wace, Pivotal bioVenture Partners, Laurion Capital, Hongkou and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Andrew Hopkins, Exscientia CEO (Exscientia)

Lay­ing claim to an­oth­er AI 'first,' Ex­sci­en­tia tees up an I/O drug for the clin­ic

In January 2020, Exscientia announced that a drug molecule to treat OCD invented by AI was set to enter clinical trials for the first time. A little over a year later, its AI-designed molecule for immuno-oncology will do the same.

The A2a receptor antagonist was co-developed with Evotec and has the potential to prevent adenosine from binding to T-cell receptors, promoting anti-tumor T-cell activity. Exscientia CEO Andrew Hopkins said in a statement that the molecule was discovered within 8 months from project initiation.

With fresh in­vestor cash in hand, Volas­tra part­ners with Mi­crosoft to de­vel­op metasta­t­ic can­cer bio­mark­er plat­form

Despite a suite of innovations in oncologic therapy, metastatic cancer remains one of the leading killers of US patients, and the underlying drivers of its growth are still little known. A West Harlem biotech is looking at one potential path to solving metastasis, and now it’s working with a high-profile partner to speed its efforts.

Volastra has closed an expanded $44 million Series A and iced a deal with Microsoft to develop new digital tools to identify biomarkers for cancer metastasis based on the company’s work studying chromosomal instability, the biotech said in a pair of releases Tuesday.

CEO Virginia Burger (New Equilibrium Biosciences)

Bet­ting ear­ly on an AI niche, RA Cap­i­tal seeds a young founder's quest to un­lock 'Holy Grail' tar­gets

Artificial intelligence, with its grandiose claims and sweeping promises to revolutionize drug discovery, may seem omnipresent in biopharma now. But Virginia Burger and RA Capital believe there are niches it has yet to touch.

After taking up residency at the star-studded Boston accelerator Petri, Burger’s startup — named New Equilibrium Biosciences — has scored $10 million in seed cash from the VC firm to prove that by reaching into those corners, they could uncover drugs against “Holy Grail” targets in everything from cancer to neurodegenerative diseases.

Jen Nwankwo, 1910 Genetics CEO

Ex­clu­sive: Mi­crosoft, Sam Alt­man back a new AI biotech up­start

Most artificial intelligence biotechs start with a computer scientist or two and an algorithm. Jen Nwankwo started from the other side of the spectrum.

She had just gotten her PhD from Tufts in 2016, a dyed-in-the-wool pharmacologist who had received an HHMI fellowship and worked on sickle cell drug discovery at Boston Children’s Hospital, and was working at Bain Capital when she started reading up on artificial intelligence. She’d pour over every news article she saw on self-driving cars or image recognition, wondering with each word how she could apply the same technology to the problems that plagued her as a drug developer.

Daphne Koller (Photo By Cody Glenn/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Daphne Koller lines up $400M for a glob­al shop­ping spree to vault for­ward on AI drug dis­cov­ery

Daphne Koller is ready to do some shopping.

The former Stanford professor got her first taste last October when she welcomed the team at Haystack Sciences and their DNA-encoded library into insitro, the star machine learning startup she’s been building from scratch since early 2018. And she’s hauled in a hefty $400 million Series C to pick up more — all to “accelerate our growth in an inorganic way.”

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Andrew Hopkins, Exscientia

Black­Rock push­es Ex­sci­en­tia Se­ries C to $100M as AI biotech boom con­tin­ues

The jury’s still out on whether the first wave of AI companies can significantly change drug development, but investors are increasingly buying into the hype.

Exscientia, the decade-old UK machine learning outfit, announced Thursday that they’ve expanded their Series C, first announced in May, from $60 million to $100 million. The expansion most notably includes BlackRock, the private equity firm that has been wading deeper and deeper into biotech. They now join Novo Holdings, Bristol Myers Squibb and others among the company’s most recent backers.

Alex Zhavoronkov (Insilico)

In­sil­i­co preps first can­di­date for IND stud­ies, hop­ing to launch tri­al in IPF by end of 2021

Over the last several years, Alex Zhavoronkov has turned Insilico into one of the most well-connected AI biotechs out there. Now, the Hong Kong-based company is one step closer to reaching the clinic.

Insilico is bringing its first candidate into IND-enabling studies, Zhavoronkov announced Wednesday, with the goal of launching an in-human trial at some point later this year. The move marks what he says is a first in AI drug discovery, as both the target and small-molecule inhibitor involved in the program are completely new and AI-generated.

Noam Solomon and Luis Voloch (Immunai)

Wad­ing deep­er in­to tar­get dis­cov­ery and val­i­da­tion, Im­mu­nai bags $60M to beef up both AI al­go­rithms and lab bench­es

Noam Solomon and Luis Voloch set out, when they launched Immunai in 2018, to map out the immune system cell by cell.

The two engineers — who had met at MIT and like to illustrate their company’s stature by pointing out the number of employees who had been trained at Palantir, Google or Facebook — saw the potential in collating all the information churned out by a single cell-sequencing multi-omics platform. You can tell drugmakers what exactly is in their cell therapy products, profile for academics the immune response to their experimental treatments, or even suggest new biomarkers that seem to be relevant in a disease.