Atomwise, FutuRx launch new AI-powered immuno-oncology biotech

After raising $123 million this past summer to fuel its artificial-intelligence-based drug design work, Atomwise has helped launch a new company focused on uncovering treatments in immuno-oncology.

A2i Therapeutics was formed as a joint venture through a partnership with FutuRx—a biotech incubator based in Israel, which has been backed by investments from Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Takeda Ventures, OrbiMed Israel Partners and Leaps by Bayer. 

FutuRx has also formed more than 20 early-stage companies in collaboration with the Israeli Innovation Authority, a government-funded agency that will also help fund A2i’s research activities as the company gets off the ground, alongside support from FutuRx’s aforementioned investors.

Atomwise will provide A2i with tech resources and support, while also working with FutuRx’s management team and its portfolio companies in a broader partnership, to apply its AI programs in early-stage drug discovery. The collaboration marks Atomwise’s second project with a global incubator hub and the first for its AtomNet platform in Israel.

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Atomwise will help A2i screen more than 16 billion compounds for potential hits targeting a protein that helps control the body’s innate immune response, which may be wielded against cancer.

“FutuRx is excited to launch a new bio convergence company jointly with a world leader in AI-based drug discovery,” said FutuRx CEO Kinneret Savitzky. “Atomwise brings a legacy of collaboration and innovation in small-molecule drug discovery to our network of leading experts from multinational pharmaceutical companies and venture capital.”

In September 2019, Atomwise inked a $1.5 billion discovery deal with Hansoh Pharma, the company’s first partner in Asia, with the goal of designing new drugs for up to 11 undisclosed protein targets in different diseases. That partnership was expanded in April of this year after successfully identifying their first hit compounds.

Shortly after that, Atomwise co-founded a drug research spinout—dubbed X-37—alongside Velocity Pharmaceutical Development to shepherd AI-derived candidates through preclinical testing and into potential takeout deals with pharma industry partners. X-37 raised $14.5 million to fund early development starting in autoimmune diseases, cancer and anticoagulation.