France’s Owkin raises $11M Series A for AI-aided drug development; AstraZeneca expands discovery deal with X-Chem

→ Riding on the artificial intelligence buzz in clinical research, Owkin has completed a $11 million Series A funding round for its predictive analytics business, led by France’s Otium Venture with support from existing investor NJF Capital as well as a few tech funds, including Cathay Innovation and Plug and Play. The Paris-based company utilizes transfer learning — a domain of AI — to accelerate drug discovery and development. It plans to channel the funds into partnerships, internal growth and scaling its platform Owkin Socrates, which analyzes molecular/imaging libraries and patient datasets to detect disease-causing biomarkers patterns. Otium partner Bruno Raillard will join Owkin’s board of directors.

AstraZeneca $AZN has expanded its drug discovery collaboration with small molecule company X-Chem. Based in Waltham, Massachusetts, X-Chem has a drug discovery engine called DEX based on a collection of DNA-encoded libraries. “AstraZeneca’s decision to internalize the DEX platform and conduct DEL screening in-house is a testament to the power of the DEX technology and its importance for small molecule drug discovery in the future,” said X-Chem’s CEO Rick Wagner in a statement. This is the third agreement between AstraZeneca and X-Chem since 2012, with previous deals leading to the pharma giant licensing numerous novel small molecules, X-Chem said. Under the deal, X-Chem will receive upfront technology access and license fees, as well as multi-year committed funding. X-Chem is also eligible for additional payments and royalties.

Exelixis $EXEL and partner Ipsen (Euronext: $IPN) gave a sneak peek of largely encouraging results for cabozantinib (Cabometyx) in hepatocellular carcinoma, which it’s going to present at a symposium later this week. The CELESTIAL trial’s primary endpoints is overall survival, and at this interim analysis, Exelixis is saying cabozantinib provided “statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvement” on that front compared to placebo. The South San Francisco biotech gave more concrete numbers for other metrics: median OS was 10.2 months versus 8.0 months with placebo, whereas median PFS was 5.2 months versus 1.9 months. The full data readout will be important for both Exelixis and Ipsen, as the former plans to submit an sNDA this quarter and the latter looks to commercialize the drug in Europe.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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