insitro, an artificial intelligence drug discovery startup, has added a $400 million Series C round to its already impressive fundraising haul. The financing is set to close during the first full week of April, according to the company.
Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board led the raise, which also included a laundry list of participants. These names include: Andreessen Horowitz, funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Casdin Capital and funds and accounts managed by BlackRock, ARCH Venture Partners, Foresite Capital, GV, Third Rock Ventures, Two Sigma Ventures, HOF Capital, Alexandria Venture Investments, Temasek, Softbank Investment Advisors, one undisclosed leading global investment group, and an undisclosed market-leading payer-provider health system based in the U.S.
WHAT IT DOES
The startup's drug discovery approach uses AI and genetic, phenotypic and clinical data to spot and design potential candidates for new medical treatments. In fact, the insitro name is a portmanteau of in silico and in vitro – speaking to its strategy of combining machine learning of large data sets with predictive cell-based disease models.
Now nearly three years since it was first announced, founder, CEO and high-profile AI researcher Daphne Koller said that the company has made major strides in 2020 alone.
“We built out and demonstrated the capabilities of our target discovery platform in our Gilead collaboration in [Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)], receiving the first of our operational milestone payments, and put in place an outstanding collaboration with Bristol Myers Squibb in [amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)]; we also took a big step forward towards moving from targets to medicines through the acquisition of Haystack Sciences, a high throughput chemistry platform that enables ML-driven molecular design; and we recruited Dr. Roger Perlmutter to our board to help guide our drug discovery efforts," Koller said in a statement.
WHAT IT'S FOR
The company said that it would be focusing the funds on expanding its platform's capabilities and pipeline (which so far is dominated by neuroscience and liver disease efforts). In addition, it said it will be will be looking "to access enabling datasets, enabling or complementary technologies and platforms, and potential in-licensed assets that have been de-risked by the company’s unique approach to target and patient biomarker discovery" with the new money.
"This Series C financing, alongside our Series B in mid-2020, provides us with tremendous resources from some of the best long-term investors in biotech, and will allow us to continue to expand our work towards bringing transformative medicines to patients faster and with fewer failures," Koller said in a statement.
"We are honored to have the support of this incredible group of investors and to welcome [CCP Investments' Paul McCracken] to our board.”
With the amount of time and money pharma invests into researching and developing novel treatments, it's little surprise that investors are opening their wallets to AI-based startups promising efficient alternatives. Alongside insitro, major AI drug discovery and pharma R&D fundraises over the past year or so have included:
- Valo Health's $300 million Series B from last week.
- XtalPi's $319 million Series C from September.
- Recursion Pharmaceuticals' oversubscribed, $239 million Series D, also from September.
- Atomwise's $123 million Series B round from August.
- Cyclica's $16.9 million Series B from July.
- Exscientia's $60 million Series C from May.