Drug firm Exscientia, Dundee spin-out, raises $60m

Edinburgh-based Frontier IP, a specialist in commercialising university intellectual property, said on Tuesday its portfolio company, AI-driven drug discovery firm Exscientia, raised $60 million through a Series C financing round.

Exscientia was originally a spinout company from the University of Dundee and now has offices in Oxford.

“The new capital will be used to expand Exscientia’s existing portfolio and pipeline and to accelerate international expansion, including in the USA,” said Frontier IP.

“The company has demonstrated high growth and met significant milestones.

“Earlier this year, it announced that the first ever drug designed by AI had entered Phase I human clinical trials in partnership with Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma. 

“The financing round has been led by new investor Novo Holdings with existing investors – Evotec,  Bristol Myers Squibb, and GT Healthcare Capital Partners (through its LPs) – participating.

“Robert Ghenchev, senior partner and head of Novo Growth, joins Exscientia’s board of directors as part of the financing round.”

Exscientia said in a statement: “Exscientia has demonstrated high growth and significant milestones in applying AI to small molecule drug discovery.

“Earlier this year, it announced that the first ever precision engineered drug designed using AI had entered Phase I human clinical trials for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder in partnership with Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma (DSP).

“This project required less than 12 months to advance the programme from target to identifying developmental candidate, just a fraction of the typical average of 4.5 years using conventional research techniques.

“The company has been able to consistently deliver similar reductions in developmental timelines across its portfolio of projects.

“Exscientia has continued to expand its portfolio into critical disease areas following the signing of multi-project partnerships with Bristol Myers Squibb, Bayer, Rallybio and GT Apeiron.

“In March this year, Exscientia announced a joint initiative to identify COVID-19 antiviral treatments with Diamond Light Source and Scripps Research and last week it announced a ground-breaking collaboration with SRI International to combine fully automated synthetic chemistry with AI.”

Robert Ghenchev at Novo Holdings said: “Through its impressive track record to date, Exscientia has demonstrated the value of combining deep scientific expertise with cutting-edge technology capabilities to significantly accelerate drug discovery.

“Novo Holdings’ investment underscores our interest in supporting technology companies that enable life science research and innovation, and our commitment to this area.

“We see significant opportunity for the company to further grow its participation in the drug discovery ecosystem and are excited to work with the Exscientia team in realising this vision.” 

Exscientia CEO Prof. Andrew Hopkins said: “This investment highlights the increasing commitment to the potential of AI to transform drug discovery and the excitement that we have garnered around the innovative work we are doing at Exscientia.

“We have now demonstrated multiple times that our platform can accelerate the time between the start of an idea and a viable new drug candidate for patients in need of treatments, fast tracking the entire R&D process.

“We are delighted that Novo Holdings, one of the world’s preeminent life science investors, recognises the potential of the platform to transform the pharmaceutical industry.”  

Evotec CEO Werner Lanthaler said: “Evotec was the first strategic and operational investor in Exscientia and we are extremely pleased it has made such impressive progress since that time and to be part of this significant fund raising.

“Evotec and Exscientia, together, look forward to realising further synergistic potential in innovative drug discovery.”

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Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.