AI Drug Discovery Financing Roundup: Unlearn.AI, Iktos, DenovAI, and More

by Andrii Buvailo, PhD          Biopharma insight

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The role of artificial intelligence (AI) in drug discovery is rapidly increasing, since it was shown to be able to expedite R&D process, reduce costs, and provide novel research insights via big data and pattern recognition.

AI has found numerous use cases in drug discovery, including target discovery, hit identification, toxicity prediction, drug repurposing, and improving the design of clinical trials. In the biomedical field, AI can help identify and validate novel therapeutic targets by analyzing vast amounts of biological data. This enables researchers to understand the complex interplay between genes, proteins, and other cellular components, leading to the discovery of novel interventions. 

The area of AI drug discovery is attractive to venture capital investors, and below we are reviewing recent notable deals in this space.

 

Unlearn.AI

Unlearn.AI, a San Francisco-based biotech startup, recently raised $15 million in a funding round led by Radical Ventures and Wittington Ventures, bringing the company's valuation to $265 million. The firm specializes in using generative AI to create "digital twin" profiles of patients in clinical trials, a relatively novel application of the technology. This approach, which recently received approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), has the potential to reduce the size and duration of clinical trials, as well as lower costs for drug developers by replacing patients who receive a placebo.

Unlearn.AI's platform has already garnered attention from major pharmaceutical companies, including Merck, with which it has signed several multi-million dollar deals. The recent funding will be used to expand partnerships and accelerate regulatory approval. As part of the latest developments, Mira Murati, Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft-backed OpenAI, will be joining Unlearn.AI's board.

 

DenovAI

AION Labs, an innovation lab focused on AI technologies and computational science for addressing therapeutic challenges, recently announced the formation of DenovAI, its second startup approved by the Israel Innovation Authority. DenovAI aims to develop an AI-powered biophysics solution capable of discovering potential antibodies from scratch and suggesting candidates likely to become effective drugs. The company plans to leverage recent advances in protein structure prediction, AI algorithms, and increased availability of experimentally determined antigen-antibody structures to create a new paradigm for AI-driven antibody discovery.

DenovAI will work on building a next-generation computational platform for designing strongly binding antibodies directed towards specific epitopes. AION Labs and its pharmaceutical partners, including Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Merck, and Teva, will provide funding, support, mentorship, and pharmaceutical data for model training and advanced machine learning development. Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the Israel Innovation Authority, as well as the Israel Biotech Fund, will also provide financial backing.

 

Iktos

French start-up Iktos has secured €15.5 million in a Series A funding round, co-led by M Ventures and Debiopharm Innovation Fund, with participation from Omnes Capital. The funds will be used to launch Iktos Robotics, the company's end-to-end drug discovery platform designed to provide fully integrated drug discovery services to the pharmaceutical industry. Iktos has developed an innovative AI-based technology that aims to streamline the drug discovery process, which currently takes an average of five years and requires a $100 million investment per drug candidate. By utilizing AI, Iktos aims to drastically reduce the time and cost involved in early drug development stages. The company has already collaborated with major pharmaceutical and biotech firms such as Janssen, Merck, Pfizer, Servier, Ono, and Teijin.

 

Ocean Genomics

Earlier this year, Accenture Ventures has strategically invested in Ocean Genomics, an AI-driven technology company that develops advanced computational platforms to help biopharma companies discover and develop more effective diagnostics and therapeutics. Ocean Genomics, based in Pittsburgh, creates software that models and analyzes changes and variants in mRNA, enabling more accurate predictions of a patient's biological response to a drug. This technology assists biopharma companies in developing personalized treatments using in-silico drug discovery. With the global personalized medicine market expected to exceed $796 billion by 2028, this investment aims to support biopharma companies in utilizing genomic and transcriptomic data, and AI in drug discovery for the development of targeted therapies. Ocean Genomics will also become part of Accenture Ventures' Project Spotlight, which connects emerging technology startups with the Global 2000 to address strategic innovation gaps.

Building upon Ocean Genomics' core expertise, the company specializes in creating software and services that help partners take advantage of advanced transcriptomic information and AI to improve their drug discovery and development programs. By working alongside cutting-edge drug developers, Ocean Genomics is able to provide valuable insights and evidence that support data-driven decisions, bolster confidence in the underlying biology, and enhance the likelihood of technical and clinical success throughout the entire process. The company's Intelligent Transcriptome computing platforms, such as TxomeAI® and DiscoverAI™, efficiently extract gene expression features and analyses from raw RNA-Seq files and integrate them with clinical and other -omics data, enabling the discovery of drug targets and biomarkers. Furthermore, Ocean Genomics' extensive DeepSea™ database offers deeply characterized transcriptomes, curated metadata, and pre-trained AI models to augment discovery and analysis efforts.

 

Protai

Protai, a Tel Aviv-based startup specializing in proteomics and AI-powered drug discovery, recently raised an additional $12 million in a seed round, bringing the total funding to $20 million. The round included participation from existing investors Grove Ventures and Pitango HealthTech, as well as new investor Maj Invest Equity Fund, according to a recent press release on PR Newswire. The company plans to use the funds to expand its oncology drug discovery pipeline, increase data acquisition, and strengthen its discovery efforts through pharma partnerships.

Founded by Eran Seger and Kirill Pevzner, Protai has developed an AI-based proteomics platform that maps the progression of diseases at the protein level. The startup has already established laboratories at its Israel R&D center, assembled an experienced drug discovery team, and collaborated with leading hospitals to access over 100k well-defined banked samples for comprehensive tumor mapping, focusing on gyno-oncology and lung cancer indications.

Protai is backed by renowned oncology experts and aims to revolutionize the drug development process by leveraging proteomic response biomarkers and artificial intelligence. This approach promises to facilitate faster and more advanced drug discovery, particularly in the field of oncology.

 

Antiverse

Antiverse, a biotechnology company specializing in computational antibody drug discovery, has successfully identified functional antibody clusters targeting two G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) and raised $3 million in funding. The funds will support the in-house development of high-affinity blocking antibodies that serve as ideal starting points for therapeutic assets.

Antiverse utilized its proprietary computational drug discovery platform, which employs machine learning to model antibody-antigen interactions and design de novo antibodies. The platform helped identify a diverse set of binders for two structurally distinct GPCRs. Out of the 8 identified human GPCR binders, 7 were confirmed as antagonists, blocking GPCR activity.

GPCRs play a critical role in various physiological processes and are linked to several pathologies and diseases, making them attractive targets for drug discovery. However, developing biologics therapies for GPCRs is challenging due to the difficulty in generating antibodies against them. Antiverse's AI-powered approach has the potential to revolutionize antibody discovery by enabling significant savings in time and cost.

The $3 million investment was secured from new investors InnoSpark, AngelHub, Kadmos Capital, and Tomorrow Scale, as well as existing investors Tensor Ventures, Deep Science Ventures, Ed Parkinson, and the Development Bank of Wales (DBW).

 

At BiopharmaTrend, we have been in the AI drug discovery field since 2016 and know every nook and cranny. If you need a deep dive into the field, reach out at info@biopharmatrend.com to learn more about industry research services. 

 

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