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Bill Gates-backed Oxford biotech totals $100M funding to discover new drugs using AI

Oxford-based Exscientia is a clinical-stage pharmatech that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to design and discover new drugs. The company just announced that BlackRock’s funds joined its Series C investment round, closing the round at $100 million (nearly £72 million).

Back in 2020, the Series C funding round was initiated by existing investors including Novo Holdings, Evotec, Bristol Myers Squibb, and GT Healthcare Capital.

Autonomous drug design

Exscientia will use the new capital to support its platform development towards autonomous drug design. Also, the company will extend its proprietary pipeline into clinical trials and expand existing capabilities in biological analytics that support target selection and portfolio development.

“Exscientia is breaking ground in small molecule drug design, with a platform that radically improves drug discovery”, said William Abecassis, Head of BlackRock’s Innovation Capital who will join Exscientia’s Board of Directors as an observer. “We are thrilled to be investing in this world-class team, who are already delivering results with AI-designed drugs now entering clinical trials.”

Andrew Hopkins, CEO of Exscientia added, “We are delighted that BlackRock shares our vision for revolutionising how drugs are discovered. It is also recognition of the ingenuity and hard work of our employees to turn the promise of AI into reality today, where we are bringing the world’s first AI designed drugs into the clinic. BlackRock’s investment is an important step in our vision that all drugs will be designed by AI. I believe that our company’s reimagined approach to drug discovery will become the new de facto standard”

AI-first drug discovery platform

With its end-to-end AI-first drug discovery platform, CentaurAI, Exscientia has been able to generate novel drugs. Also, it helped the company overcome conventional drug discovery limitations several years faster than industry benchmarks.

Exscientia demonstrated the platform’s capabilities by creating the first fully AI-designed drug to enter clinical trials and advancing multiple drug candidates into preclinical testing. Furthermore, the company conducted drug discovery partnerships with Bristol-Myers Squibb, Sanofi, Bayer and Dainippon Sumitomo and several biotech companies as well.

Recently, the startup also received $4.2 million (£3.01 million approx.) grant from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to identify new targets and leads for malaria, tuberculosis, and non-hormonal contraception.

Fastest growing biotech in the UK

Established in 2012 by Andrew Hopkins, Exscientia has doubled in size over the past year. Furthermore, the company expects to double once again in 2021, including a recent US expansion into Miami and Boston.

It was named the fastest-growing private biotech or pharmaceutical company in the UK in the 2021 Alantra Pharma Fast 50. Also, it is known to be one of the fastest-growing healthcare companies in the Financial Times FT1000.