Deep Genomics scores $180M to deliver AI-programmed RNA therapies

With COVID-19 vaccines making RNA-based medicines a household name, Deep Genomics is reaping some of the buzz—as well as $180 million in new funding for its efforts to develop “programmable” therapies.

The artificial intelligence firm’s series C round more than quadruples its previous $40 million fundraising from early January 2020, and will help advance at least 10 computer-designed drugs toward clinical testing while expanding its pipeline by 20 more.

The Toronto-based company’s AI platform aims to predict how drug candidates containing short strips of genetic material will perform when aimed at disease-causing RNA and DNA. 

By writing specific instructions into the medicine itself, Deep Genomics hopes to target the underlying mutations that form the basis of both rare and common conditions—essentially “debugging” errors in the body’s genetic code.

“RNA therapeutics are a digital sequence of nucleotides, which means medicines have become digital information,” Deep Genomics founder and CEO Brendan Frey said in a statement. “This financing further validates the significant advances in our AI discovery platform and growth of our proprietary preclinical pipeline.”

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The latest funding round was led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, with additional backing from the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board, also known as CPP Investments, alongside Fidelity Management, Alexandria Venture Investments, Amplitude Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Magnetic Ventures and True Ventures.

The proceeds will also support Deep Genomics’ plans to move its four leading programs into the clinic by 2023—and kick off a large-scale effort to generate biological data spanning 100 genes on the company’s hit list, to help identify new targets and mechanisms of action for a new wave of preclinical research. 

The money will also cover an expansion of its AI Workbench program, a suite of machine learning systems offered to biopharma companies to help them weave RNA into potential therapeutic compounds.

“This AI Workbench, paired with terabytes of proprietary data, enables us to tackle the enormous complexity of RNA biology and identify novel targets, mechanisms, and RNA therapeutics, which cannot be found without AI,” Frey added.

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Late last year, Deep Genomics signed up with BioMarin to chase a number of undisclosed rare diseases—partly because its AI engines were producing more targets than it could tackle on its own. Now, the company said it plans to seek more biopharma partnerships to expand its clinical development capacity.