BenevolentAI to take drug discovery tech public in Europe's largest SPAC deal, valued at €1.5B

Coming in just under the wire to cap off a year filled with outsized medtech special purpose acquisition company deals, BenevolentAI has agreed to combine with SPAC Odyssey in what amounts to Europe’s largest-ever SPAC merger.

Slated to close in the first quarter of next year, the reverse merger will result in BenevolentAI becoming a publicly traded company on the Euronext Amsterdam stock exchange. At that time, the newly public, London-based company is expected to have a post-money valuation of 1.5 billion euros, or about $1.7 billion.

In the course of its combination with Odyssey—which went public in a 300 million euro IPO of its own earlier this year—BenevolentAI will rake in up to 390 million euros in net proceeds. That includes 135 million euros in an already fully committed private investment from the company’s existing partners Temasek and AstraZeneca as well as other investors including Ally Bridge Group, Invus and more.

“We have built BenevolentAI into a category-defining business by pioneering a revolutionary approach to drug discovery and development. Our AI platform empowers scientists to leverage biomedical and experimental data at scale to understand the underlying causes of disease and develop more effective medicines, faster,” CEO Joanna Shields said in a statement.

“The combination with Odyssey will allow us to scale our vision and ambition of uniting purposeful technology and cutting-edge science to discover life-changing medicines,” Shields said.

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BenevolentAI’s platform uses machine learning and other artificial intelligence tools to analyze clinical databases, helping researchers spot novel molecular targets and design new drugs to treat complex diseases then match those compounds to the most responsive patient subgroups.

The reverse merger, in turn, will help the company continue to develop the platform and speed up its plans to churn out even more potential drug candidates, joining the more than 20 in-house programs already in its pipeline.

To help oversee that plan for rapid growth, former Sanofi CEO Olivier Brandicourt and Jean Raby, previously the head of Natixis Investment Managers and current co-CEO of Odyssey, will both join the company’s board of directors after the SPAC deal is complete.

“BenevolentAI has already produced substantial evidence of the potency and efficiency of its platform, notably through the quality of its existing pipeline of candidates and its strong and expanding collaboration with AstraZeneca,” said Brandicourt. “We are confident in the ability of BenevolentAI to sustainably generate a pipeline of first- and best-in-class programs and to become a key player in the global drug discovery sector.”

RELATED: AstraZeneca, BenevolentAI home in on computer-generated target for chronic kidney disease drugs

That longstanding partnership with AstraZeneca, too, is on track to continue growing. Alongside news of the SPAC merger, BenevolentAI also announced an expansion of that collaboration, which was initially formed in April 2019 to apply AI to kidney disease and pulmonary fibrosis drug design.

Earlier this year, the duo unveiled the first product of their partnership. The novel drug target was identified by BenevolentAI’s predictive machine learning tools then validated by AstraZeneca experiments. With the new target, the Big Pharma’s researchers can begin to design a drug that homes in on the specific cellular mechanisms behind chronic kidney disease.