Atomwise raises $123M to expand AI-powered drug design efforts

The artificial intelligence-powered drug designer Atomwise has raised $123 million in venture capital funding, to both scale up its platform and its partnerships with large biopharma companies, and to begin developing its own pipeline of promising molecules.

The new financing builds on the several big-ticket discovery collaborations Atomwise has secured in the past year—a to-do list potentially worth more than $5.5 billion in milestone payments, should its AI-forged drugs perform well in the clinic and beyond.

This includes a $1 billion deal with the South Korean biotech Bridge Biotherapeutics, a $1.5 billion project with China’s Hansoh Pharma, and an arrangement with Eli Lilly for up to $550 million, including up to $1 million for each early drug lead uncovered by its computer networks.

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Atomwise’s series B round brings its funding total up to nearly $175 million, with the latest financing led by B Capital Group and Sanabil Investments. DCVC, BV, Tencent, Y Combinator, Dolby Family Ventures and AME Cloud Ventures also returned to back the company.

The proceeds will help Atomwise bring on new staff and build up its own internal portfolio of small molecule drug candidates aimed at “historically undruggable” disease targets, the company said.

“The advancements Atomwise has made with its computational drug discovery platform have effectively cut months or even years off of the R&D lifecycle,” said B Capital’s co-founder and managing partner, Raj Ganguly, who joined Atomwise’s board of directors. “More importantly, however, they are solving biology problems previously believed to be unsolvable by researchers and delivering that capability to everyone from academics to big pharma.”

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Currently, Atomwise’s AtomNet discovery platform maintains a library of over 16 billion molecules for virtual screening. In addition, through its academic collaborations—including 285 active partnerships with university researchers—the company has gathered data on disease target sites, protein classes and other research areas. This includes 15 recent projects aimed at developing therapies for COVID-19, Atomwise said.