BlackRock powers Exscientia to $100M series C round to fund autonomous drug design

Artificial Intelligence
Exscientia's CEO called the support of BlackRock “an important step” in his vision “that all drugs will be designed by AI.” (Pixabay)

Exscientia has raised $100 million to further develop its artificial intelligence drug discovery platform while advancing its proprietary pipeline into clinical trials. The series C saw Exscientia add BlackRock to an investor syndicate already dotted with big names.

U.K.-based Exscientia has established itself as a notable player in the AI drug discovery space through a series of deals with biopharma companies. Sanofi signed up to work on bispecific small molecules for use in diabetics in 2017, after which drug developers including Bayer and Celgene struck deals to access the fruits of Exscientia’s platform.

Investors have bought into the company’s platform, too. Having raised $60 million in series C funding last year, Exscientia has now closed the round at $100 million. Novo Holdings led the initial series C close with support from Evotec, Bristol Myers Squibb and GT Healthcare Capital. The addition of BlackRock to the syndicate has now further swelled the series C for the final close. 

Securing the support of BlackRock provides both an immediate influx of capital and access to one of the deepest-pocketed investors in biopharma. Exscientia CEO Andrew Hopkins called the support of BlackRock “an important step” in his vision “that all drugs will be designed by AI.” 

Exscientia differentiated itself from other AI-enabled drug discovery shops in its early days through algorithms that actually design novel molecules—rather than just screening for hits or assisting in the design process—and with its commitment to hiring experienced drug hunters to use its platform. Andy Bell, co-inventor of Pfizer’s Viagra, was an early big-name hire. 

The AI space has become increasingly competitive since then, with companies including Atomwise, Insitro and Recursion raising large financing rounds. With a triple-digit round of its own in place, the stage is now set for Exscientia to build on its progress to date.

Some of the cash will fund “platform development towards autonomous drug design,” the company  said. The money will also support the expansion of biological analytics capabilities and the progress of Exscientia’s proprietary pipeline into clinical trials. Exscientia is working on immuno-oncology and innate immunity programs.