$115million funding round values BenevolentAI at $2billion
Babraham Research Campus-based company is using artificial intelligence to accelerate drug discovery and development
It is set to be a game-changer in the usually tortuous process of drug development – and now BenevolentAI has raised another $115million in a funding round that values the company at an astonishing $2billion.
The company, which arrived at Babraham Research Campus earlier this year, uses artificial intelligence to accelerate the discovery and development of new medicines.
Founder and chairman Ken Mulcahy told the Cambridge Independent in an interview earlier this year that the firm’s ambition is to shave six years off the typical timetable and is recruiting fast.
Already 20 drug programmes have been initiated. The new investment – one of the largest funding rounds seen in the AI pharmaceutical sector – will help BenevolentAI significantly scale its drug development activities, broaden the disease areas on which it focuses and extend its AI platform capabilities further.
The majority of the new investors are from the United States, which expands the company’s global investor footprint, although they have not been named. Existing investors, including Woodford Investment Management, also joined the round, which put a valuation on the company before the new funds of £2bn. This was up 17 per cent on the valuation during a 2015 funding round. The company has now raised more than $200million in five years.
Ken said: “We are very pleased with the response to the fundraising. It reflects the rapidly growing global interest in the AI pharmaceutical sector and the recognition of our place as the dominant player within it.
“We have come a very long way since we founded the business in 2013. The capabilities of our technology didn’t exist six years ago.
“We are pioneering this sector and have evolved into a fully integrated, AI-enabled drug development company with the ability to deliver better medicines at previously unimaginable speeds – this ultimately means patients will receive the right medicines, at a lower cost, in less time.”
Some of the funds will be used to extend BenevolentAI’s capabilities into other science-based industries. Its technology has potential use in a number of the world’s most valuable markets such as advanced materials, agriculture and energy storage.
Credit Suisse acted as the sole placement agent in the deal.
In February, BenevolentAI acquired the UK operation and offices of Proximagen, a successful biotech firm on Babraham Research Campus that Ken founded and sold in 2012 to Upsher-Smith Laboratories for $553million.
BenevolentAI’s approach is to take the world’s bioscience knowledge, held in scientific papers, patents, clinical trial information and data sets, and use AI to uncover connections and concepts that have not been considered yet.
The company, which has its HQ in London, and has further offices in New York and Belgium, has proven already that it can cut early stage drug discovery by four years.
It believes it can deliver efficiencies in the entire drug development process of 60 per cent against pharmaceutical industry averages by lowering costs, decreasing failure rates and increasing the speed at which medicines can be delivered to patients.
In an industry that spends $180bn a year on research and development, its potential is clearly not lost on investors.