AI drug designer Genesis Therapeutics forges $200M round with eye on clinical testing

Let there be light. Genesis Therapeutics has forged a $200 million venture capital round to help turn its artificial intelligence-powered pipeline toward human testing.

First spun out of Stanford University in late 2019, the company has been working to develop its deep learning platform—dubbed GEMS—that helps design small-molecule drug compounds and predict how they will interact with the body, by modeling how they can bind with flexible or slippery proteins.

The nine-figure series B haul is a big step up from its previous fundraising, a $52 million series A in December 2020. That round was led by Rock Springs Capital and joined by T. Rowe Price Associates, Menlo Ventures, Radical Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz, which had previously led the company’s early seed funding.

All of those backers returned for Genesis’ latest appeal, while a16z Bio + Health took the position as co-leader alongside an unnamed “U.S.-based life-sciences-focused investor,” according to the company’s announcement. New backers, meanwhile, included Fidelity Management & Research Company, BlackRock and Nvidia’s VC arm, NVentures.

Genesis also disclosed that it previously raised about $24 million in SAFE notes, similar to convertible notes, from a previous round led by Radical Ventures, which converted alongside the closing of the oversubscribed series B.

The fresh proceeds will help power the company into the clinical testing stage, with what it described as a wholly owned pipeline of AI-enabled programs while expanding its drug discovery efforts into other areas. Genesis has not yet named its plans for disease targets. 

“AI presents a potent opportunity to revolutionize the drug discovery process, which frequently struggles to produce viable drug candidates against targets that are biologically well-validated but considered undruggable due to highly challenging chemistry,” Genesis CEO Evan Feinberg said in a statement.

Genesis was born out of the Stanford lab led by Professor Vijay Pande, which focused on applying machine learning-powered simulations in chemistry, biology and medicine. Pande, meanwhile, has also served as the founding general partner at a16z Bio + Health, in addition to being named co-inventor of some of Genesis’s deep learning tech.

“Blending technology and biomedicine has untapped potential, and it's an exciting time to be at the nexus of these two powerful forces,” Pande said. 

Genesis’ GEMS platform is designed to produce novel molecules and predict properties such as potency, selectivity and pharmacokinetics, including possible toxicity. The Burlingame, California-based company also said it is capable of hitting previously challenging and “canonically undruggable” protein targets, with chemical synthesis and iterative experiments conducted in its San Diego laboratory.

It previously inked a discovery deal with Genentech early in its lifetime and later sealed a deal worth up to $690 million with Eli Lilly in May 2022. That project included $20 million upfront with the remainder tied to milestones, should Genesis’ work pay off across as many as five targets among a range of therapeutic areas.