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.

Uni­ver­si­ty of Dundee chemist An­drew Hop­kins found­ed Ex­sci­en­tia back in 2012 to build a com­pu­ta­tion­al plat­form that could help more tra­di­tion­al drug­mak­ers find new ther­a­pies faster. The team has since de­vel­oped a plat­form it be­lieves can be used to “pre­ci­sion en­gi­neer” new med­i­cines, us­ing AI for process­es like tar­get iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, drug de­sign and pa­tient se­lec­tion.

“Drug de­sign is pre­ci­sion en­gi­neer­ing at the mol­e­c­u­lar scale,” the com­pa­ny said in a state­ment. Its plat­form learns from a wide range of da­ta, us­ing al­go­rithms to iden­ti­fy hy­pothe­ses, gen­er­ate mol­e­c­u­lar de­signs, and se­lect which mol­e­cules to syn­the­size and test.

“Our AI plat­form has al­lowed us to achieve these re­sults sev­er­al years faster than in­dus­try stan­dards,” CEO An­drew Hop­kins told End­points News in an email.

So far, the com­pa­ny has put forth sev­en drug can­di­dates at an av­er­age speed of 12 months each, ver­sus the in­dus­try stan­dard of three to sev­en years, he said.

Af­ter rack­ing up part­ner­ships with biotechs and Big Phar­ma, Ex­sci­en­tia land­ed its first large fi­nanc­ing round last May, rais­ing $60 mil­lion in a C round led by No­vo Hold­ings. Then ear­ly last month, an in­vest­ment from Black­Rock pushed the round to $100 mil­lion.

Now, with two Evotec and Sum­it­o­mo Dainip­pon Phar­ma-part­nered can­di­dates in the clin­ic, Ex­sci­en­tia plans on scal­ing its op­er­a­tions and de­vel­op­ing an in­ter­nal pipeline of on­col­o­gy, im­muno-on­col­o­gy and im­munol­o­gy drugs.

“Our pa­tient-first AI plat­form has re­peat­ed­ly demon­strat­ed its abil­i­ty to pre­ci­sion de­sign drugs that ad­dress pa­tients’ needs and we in­tend to con­tin­ue ex­pand­ing our tech­nol­o­gy plat­form to­ward full end-to-end au­tonomous drug de­sign,” Hop­kins said.

Ex­sci­en­tia claims its OCD can­di­date de­vel­oped with DSP was the first AI-de­vel­oped drug to en­ter the clin­ic, though the claim has been made by oth­er biotechs.

In­vestors con­tin­ue to open their wal­lets for AI com­pa­nies tak­ing on the chal­lenge of de­vel­op­ing bet­ter drugs faster. Re­cur­sion nabbed a $239 mil­lion mega-round and a $1 bil­lion Bay­er part­ner­ship back in Sep­tem­ber — fol­lowed by a $436 mil­lion IPO. Ear­li­er, Atom­wise, which got its start at Y Com­bi­na­tor and was crit­i­cized for over­hyp­ing its ser­vices, more than tripled its to­tal fundrais­ing with a $123 mil­lion Se­ries B. Daphne Koller’s in­sitro raised a $400 mil­lion Se­ries C round just last month. And oth­ers, like Gen­e­sis Ther­a­peu­tics and Rever­ie Labs, keep crop­ping up.

In Jan­u­ary, As­traZeneca added the first tar­get gen­er­at­ed by AI to its port­fo­lio, as the re­sult of a part­ner­ship with Benev­o­len­tAI that traces back to 2019. Benev­o­len­tAI was the com­pa­ny that iden­ti­fied Eli Lil­ly’s JAK in­hibitor baric­i­tinib as a po­ten­tial treat­ment for Covid-19, which has since land­ed emer­gency use au­tho­riza­tion from the FDA.

“We be­lieve Ex­sci­en­tia’s in­no­v­a­tive use of AI to dis­cov­er and de­sign bet­ter qual­i­ty drugs with greater ef­fi­cien­cy has the po­ten­tial to cre­ate im­por­tant med­i­cines faster than ever be­fore,” Er­ic Chen, man­ag­ing part­ner at Soft­Bank In­vest­ment Ad­vis­ers, said in a state­ment.

When asked if an IPO is on the hori­zon, Hop­kins re­spond­ed: “The com­pa­ny does not com­ment on po­ten­tial fu­ture fi­nanc­ings, but we would be hap­py to reach out on up­dates when they oc­cur.”

How one start­up fore­told the neu­ro­science re­nais­sance af­ter '50 years of shit­show'

In the past couple of years, something curious has happened: Pharma and VC dollars started gushing into neuroscience research.

Biogen’s controversial new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm has been approved on the basis of removing amyloid plaque from the brain, but the new neuro-focused pharma and biotechs have much loftier aims. Significantly curbing or even curing the most notorious disorders would prove the Holy Grail for a complex system that has tied the world’s best drug developers in knots for decades.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Ryan Watts, Denali CEO

De­nali slips as a snap­shot of ear­ly da­ta rais­es some trou­bling ques­tions on its pi­o­neer­ing blood-brain bar­ri­er neu­ro work

Denali Therapeutics had drummed up considerable hype for their blood-brain barrier technology since launching over six years ago, hype that’s only intensified in the last 14 months following the publications of a pair of papers last spring and proof of concept data earlier this year. On Sunday, the South San Francisco-based biotech gave the biopharma world the next look at in-human data for its lead candidate in Hunter syndrome.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 112,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Why is On­col­o­gy Drug De­vel­op­ment Re­search Late to the Dig­i­tal Bio­mark­ers Game?

During the recent Annual ASCO Meeting, thousands of cancer researchers and clinicians from across the globe joined together virtually to present and discuss the latest findings and breakthroughs in cancer research and care. There were more than 5000+ scientific abstracts presented during this event, yet only a handful involved the use of motion-tracking wearables to collect digital measures relating to activity, sleep, mobility, functional status, and/or quality of life. Although these results were a bit disappointing, they should come as no surprise to those of us in the wearable technology field.

Bob Bradway, Amgen CEO (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Am­gen bel­lies back up to the M&A ta­ble for an­oth­er biotech buy­out, this time with a $2.5B deal for an an­ti­body play­er fo­cused on PS­MA

Five months after Amgen CEO Bob Bradway stepped up to the M&A table and acquired Five Prime for $1.9 billion, following up with the smaller Rodeo acquisition, he’s gone back in for another biotech buyout.

This time around, Amgen is paying $900 million cash while committing up to $1.6 billion in milestones to bag the privately held Teneobio, an antibody drug developer that has expertise in developing new bispecifics and multispecifics. In addition, Amgen cited Teneobio’s “T-cell engager platform, which expands on Amgen’s existing leadership position in bispecific T-cell engagers by providing a differentiated, but complementary, approach to Amgen’s current BiTE platform.”

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 112,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Art Levinson (Calico)

Google-backed Cal­i­co dou­bles down on an­ti-ag­ing R&D pact with Ab­b­Vie as part­ners ante up $1B, start to de­tail drug tar­gets

Seven years after striking up a major R&D alliance, AbbVie and Google-backed anti-aging specialist Calico are doubling down on their work with a joint, $1 billion commitment to continuing their work together. And they’re also beginning to offer some details on where this project is taking them in the clinic.

According to their statement, each of the two players is putting up $500 million more to keep the labs humming.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 112,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Andrea Pfeifer, AC Immune CEO (AC Immune)

Look­ing to repli­cate Covid-19 suc­cess in neu­ro, BioN­Tech back­ers bet on AC Im­mune and its new­ly-ac­quired Parkin­son's vac­cine

The German billionaires behind BioNTech have found a new vaccine project to back.

Through their family office Athos Service, twin brothers Thomas and Andreas Strüngmann are leading a $25 million private placement into Switzerland’s AC Immune — which concurrently announced that it’s shelling out $58.7 million worth of stock to acquire Affiris’ portfolio of therapies targeting alpha-synuclein, including a vaccine candidate, for Parkinson’s disease.

Rajiv Shukla, Constellation Alpha Holdings

Can­del gets busy IPO week mov­ing with down­sized raise as Ra­jiv Shuk­la's third SPAC goes pub­lic

Editor’s note: Interested in following biopharma’s fast-paced IPO market? You can bookmark our IPO Tracker here.

In a week that’s expected to see several biotechs price their IPOs, Candel Therapeutics got things kicked off Tuesday with a muted opener.

The company helmed by former GlaxoSmithKline vet Paul Peter Tak made its way to Nasdaq thanks to a $72 million raise, which was downsized by about 15% than originally anticipated, according to Renaissance Capital. Candel priced at $8 per share after initially seeking to launch in the $13 to $15 range.

Busi­ness­es and schools can man­date the use of Covid-19 vac­cines un­der EUAs, DOJ says

As public and private companies stare down the reality of the Delta variant, many are now requiring that their employees or students be vaccinated against Covid-19 prior to attending school or to returning or starting a new job. Claims that such mandates are illegal or cannot be used for vaccines under emergency use authorizations have now been dismissed.

Setting the record straight, the Department of Justice on Monday called the mandates legal in a new memo, even when used for people with vaccines that remain subject to EUAs.

Ugur Sahin, BioNTech CEO (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP Images)

BioN­Tech is spear­head­ing an mR­NA vac­cine de­vel­op­ment pro­gram for malar­ia, with a tech trans­fer planned for Africa

Flush with the success of its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, BioNTech is now gearing up for one of the biggest challenges in vaccine development — which comes without potential profit.

The German mRNA pioneer says it plans to work on a jab for malaria, then transfer the tech to the African continent, where it will work with partners on developing the manufacturing ops needed to make this and other vaccines.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 112,900+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.