Recursion bags $60M for AI-enabled drug discovery push

Recursion is aiming to move a drug into the clinic next year.

Recursion Pharmaceuticals has raised $60 million to step up its artificial intelligence-enabled drug discovery activities. The series B equips Recursion to move beyond its initial focus on repurposing molecules by applying its technology to the discovery of novel targets and drugs.

Salt Lake City, Utah-based Recursion is built upon an AI-powered approach to phenotypic screening and other aspects of the drug discovery process. The approach is underpinned by a fast-growing collection of cellular images and other data. By analyzing this resource with software incorporating computer vision, machine learning and neural networks, Recursion thinks it can spot changes in its data and, in doing so, discover novel biology, targets and drugs.  

Like previous companies set up to develop tech-enabled approaches to drug discovery, Recursion set out originally to find new uses for old drugs. This led to a partnership with Sanofi and has given Recursion’s investors confidence in its approach.

“Recursion has proven its machine learning approach to phenomics can consistently yield high value results and be immediately translatable to their pharma partners,” Lux Capital’s Zavain Dar said in a statement.

Recursion has also moved three in-house assets—two against ataxia telangiectasia and one against cerebral cavernous malformation—into preclinical testing and has another nine programs at the in vivo stage. Recursion expects to move a candidate into the clinic next year.

The biotech has “[built] out a massive internal discovery pipeline,” according to Dar, and is increasingly interested in applying its capabilities to wholly novel R&D projects, rather than the somewhat simpler task of repurposing. This novel R&D work will be one focus of the post-series A spending. 

Data Collective led the round with support from the institutional investors that backed Recursion’s $12.9 million series A one year ago. Lux led that earlier round. And, as the identities of the series A and B leads suggests, Recursion has leant heavily on investors better known for their work in tech than biotech. Lux and Data Collective both play in sectors far removed from biotech, while also boasting growing portfolios of life science companies that fall within their wheelhouse because of their use of data and tech. 

Recursion fits the bill. And, with the series B in the bag, the company is poised to find out how its belief it can turn biology into a data science problem fares in the clinic.