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BenevolentAI Raises $115M For Drug Discovery, Pegs Valuation at $2.1 Billion

Xconomy San Francisco — 

BenevolentAI, one of the companies vying to improve healthcare through artificial intelligence analysis, says it has raised $115 million to accelerate its drive to discover new drugs by studying disease processes at the molecular level.

The London-based company, which has offices in New York and Belgium, says the new capital brings its current valuation to $2.1 billion. The money was raised from new and earlier investors—most from the United States. But BenevolentAI named only one—previous investor Woodford Investment Management—in its announcement Wednesday.

According to a spokeswoman, the backers include family offices and some strategic investors. Counting the new money, BenevolentAI has raised a total of $200 million since it was founded in 2013.

The company says its “bioscience machine brain” stuffed with algorithms can draw insights about the molecular mechanisms of disease, propose drug candidates, and identify the patients who might benefit most from each experimental therapy.

BenevolentAI says its drug discovery and clinical development strategies could reduce both the time and the considerable expense of bringing new drugs to market. The company is concentrating on areas of unmet medical need, including neurological disorders and cancer. Its new capital will be used to scale up the drug development program, as well as to explore new uses of its technology in agriculture, advanced materials, and energy storage.

The U.K. company, which has 165 employees, is competing in a broad healthcare A.I. arena populated by industrial giants like Google, IBM, GE and Siemens, along with ambitious startups, as Xconomy’s Jeff Engel detailed in a review of the field. Like BenevolentAI, for example, IBM’s Watson Health is also grinding through mountains of data to find new paths to more effective medicines. Billions of dollars are being spent on healthcare A.I., not only to discover new drugs, but also to improve clinical practice with new products including better diagnostic tools, such as medical imaging.