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James Collins, Broad Institute via Youtube

A space odyssey for new an­tibi­otics: MIT's ma­chine learn­ing ap­proach

Drug development is complex, expensive and comes with lousy odds of success — but in most cases, if you make it across the finish line brandishing a product with an edge (and play your cards right) it can be a lucrative endeavor.

As it stands, the antibiotic market is cursed — it harbors the stink of multiple bankruptcies, a dearth of innovation, and is consequently barely whetting the voracious appetites of big pharma or venture capitalists. Enter artificial intelligence — the biopharma industry’s cure-all for the pesky process of making a therapeutic, including data mining, drug discovery, optimal drug delivery, and addressable patient population.

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BenchSci founders, clockwise from top left: Liran Belenzon, Elvis Wianda, David Chen and Tom Leung

F-Prime backs a niche AI soft­ware start­up hunt­ing lofty goals in $22M Se­ries B

For many of the AI companies sprouting on the biopharma field, validation — often meaning confirmation of whether the targets and drugs they identified or generated would actually work — won’t come in years, if at all. But for BenchSci, the drug hunting field is their home turf.

To be sure, the Toronto-based startup is doing something very different from the rest of the pack. Rather than staking claims about the results of drug discovery, it’s out to change the process by hunkering down on a specific problem: helping scientists select the right reagents to conduct their preclinical experiments.

Venky Soundararajan (via Medium)

A for aug­ment­ed: Cam­bridge AI com­pa­ny out to cap­ture bio­med­ical knowl­edge gets $60M from Mayo, Sil­i­con Val­ley VC

The Mayo Clinic is joining hands with a Silicon Valley VC firm to inject $60 million into nference, a Cambridge, MA-based player in the gold rush to capitalize on biopharma’s growing interest — and urge — to accelerate drug discovery and development using the latest machine learning tools.

While nference ostensibly belongs to a generation of software startups that cropped up around 2013, it doesn’t see itself as part of the AI mainstream, founder and CSO Venky Soundararajan tells Endpoints News. That’s why the A in their AI stands for augmented, not artificial.

Brendan Frey, Deep Genomics

SpaceX in­vestor backs Toron­to AI up­start's jour­ney in­to the 'dark re­gion' of ge­net­ic dis­eases

Brendan Frey set out, when he began the project to pick out a lead program for Deep Genomics, to prove that the artificial intelligence systems his lab has designed can identify new drug targets and find a winning candidate much faster than traditional methods. Now that they have zeroed in on an antisense oligonucleotide exon-skipping therapy for a subtype of Wilson disease — selected out of 2,400 ailments and 120,000 underlying genetic mutations — as their face case, the Toronto-based biotech is ready to delve into new frontiers with their AI tech.

Brendan Frey. Deep Genomics

Cana­di­an star re­searcher Bren­dan Frey bran­dish­es Deep Ge­nomic­s' first AI-dis­cov­ered drug

A startup harnessing AI in drug discovery has put forward its first therapeutic candidate — and it may not be who you’re thinking.

To be sure, Deep Genomics still has a ways to go in preliminary animal work to ensure safety and non-human primate as well as biodistribution before they can move into clinical testing. But the fact that its AI system was able to go from target identification to declaring a winner in 18 months, said CEO Brendan Frey, is a game-changer.

Frey founded Deep Genomics in Toronto in 2014, a couple years after more well-known players such as Atomwise, BenevolentAI and Recursion popped up, based on a decade of research on how AI can help scientists understand genetic diseases. While other platforms have tended to zero in on one part of the puzzle — Atomwise is focused on accelerating small molecule screening, Recursion relies on cell imaging, and insilico uses AI to modify existing drugs — its tech “does the whole thing.”

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Benev­o­len­tAI draws $90M from Temasek amid re­ports of halved val­u­a­tion

Days after news leaked that BenevolentAI had secured funding at a rate that would halve its $2 billion valuation, the machine learning startup officially announced it raised $90 million from Singapore-based Temasek for a minority stake.

The news deals another blow to embattled fund manager Neil Woodford. BenevolentAI was one of two biotech AI startups, along with Oxford Nanopore, Woodford was reportedly prepping for auction to raise cash for his still frozen Equity Income Fund. Nanopore’s $1.5 billion valuation remains steady, affirmed by fellow investor IP Group.

Neil Woodford. Woodford Investment Management via YouTube

Benev­o­len­tAI's lat­est fi­nanc­ing could halve its $2B val­u­a­tion — and that has Wood­ford watch­ers wor­ried

BenevolentAI is barely clinging to its unicorn status after its latest round of financing from Singapore’s Temasek, which would reportedly halve its $2 billion valuation — and deal another blow to troubled fund manager Neil Woodford.

Temasek will take a minority stake in a deal that values London-based BenevolentAI at $1 billion, the Sunday Times reported. A $115 million financing round last April — dedicated in part to scaling its drug development work — had donned a pre-money valuation of $2 billion.

Atom­wise inks Chi­na deal as list of AI col­lab­o­ra­tions length­ens

The long list of major AI biopharma collaborations has gotten longer as one of the first artificial intelligence startups has inked its first deal in China.

San Francisco-based startup Atomwise has signed an agreement to develop targeted drugs with Hansoh Pharmaceuticals, a deal that could ultimately be worth up to $1.5 billion. Hansoh is flush with cash after a $1 billion IPO on the Hong Kong exchange in June.

Alex Zha­voronkov fol­lows land­mark AI pa­per with $37M round for In­sil­i­co fea­tur­ing top-notch Chi­na VCs

Nisa Leung

Days after Alex Zhavoronkov’s team demonstrated just how their generative machine learning model could be used to discover new compounds, Chinese investors are once again congregating at Insilico’s corner to offer a fresh round of cash to move that work forward.

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Alex Zhavoronkov, Insilico

AI study led by In­sil­i­co's Alex Zha­voronkov bol­sters case for faster, cheap­er drug dis­cov­ery

Drug development is an arduous and expensive business. The promise of artificial intelligence is that machines can wean manufacturers away from the breadth of resources it takes to discover a potentially potent compound, and leverage the medical conditions it could be used to treat. Alex Zhavoronkov, whose Hong Kong-based AI-shop Insilico Medicine has entrenched itself in the tentacles of biopharma R&D, now has some data to bolster the fervor and investment that AI has drummed up.