AI drug prospector Recursion Pharma nets $121M for its clinical programs

Machine learning-powered drug discoverer Recursion Pharmaceuticals has secured $121 million in new financing for its artificial intelligence programs.

The proceeds will help the former Fierce 15 winner build out its automated drug discovery platform as well as support its plans to add new capabilities in predicting pharmacological safety and detailing the chemistry of new chemical entities. Recursion also hopes to move forward its first two clinical programs for cerebral cavernous malformation and neurofibromatosis type 2.

The series C round was led by Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust, managed under the Edinburgh-based firm Baillie Gifford, alongside participation from the company’s new backers Intermountain Ventures, Regents of the University of Minnesota, Texas Tech University System and additional angel investors.

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“We’re very excited to see companies bringing innovation from different fields together to try to radically change healthcare,” Baillie Gifford investment manager Marina Record said in a statement. “Recursion impressed us with its multidisciplinary effort and ambitious vision to improve our understanding of biology and discover new drugs in a way that is faster and cheaper.”

Recursion’s AI-powered approach to phenotypic screening and other aspects of drug discovery—originally developed to find new uses for old drugs—is built on its collection of cellular images and other data, analyzed with computer vision and neural networks to spot changes and discover novel biology.

The company raised $60 million in a 2017 series B round, and its previous institutional investors returned to join this latest raise, including Lux Capital, Data Collective, Mubadala Ventures, Two Sigma Ventures, Obvious Ventures, Felicis Ventures, Epic Ventures, Menlo Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures and CRV.

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“In under two years since closing our series B round, we have put two drugs discovered on our platform into clinical trials, had our first discoveries with Takeda optioned, grown our automated experimental bandwidth by an order of magnitude, expanded beyond rare diseases into new therapeutic areas like inflammation, infectious disease and immuno-oncology, grown our team from 64 to 150-plus and added all-stars from the biotech and tech worlds, and opened a state-of-the-art, 100,000 square-foot headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City,” said Recursion CEO Chris Gibson.

The company also said it plans to prioritize treatments for rare diseases within its pipeline, while seeking drugmaker partnerships in areas including immunotherapy, oncology, aging and inflammation.

“With these new resources, we will continue to drive toward a future in which drugs are developed—by people—with a new level of understanding about human biology that was simply not possible before machines,” Gibson said.