Insilico raises $37M with plans to bring its AI to more drug discovery partnerships

AI-based drug designer Insilico Medicine has raised $37 million to help commercialize its technology, on the heels of a landmark paper for the company that showed its computer networks were able to generate, synthesize and preclinically validate a series of promising compounds from scratch in less than 50 days.

Insilico also plans to build out its senior management team. Specifically, it’s angling for industry veterans that could help secure discovery partnerships with biopharmaceutical companies across different therapeutic programs, including in cancer, immunology, fibrosis, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and central nervous system conditions.

The series B round was led by China-based Qiming Venture Partners, with participation from Eight Roads, F-Prime Capital, Lilly Asia Ventures, Sinovation Ventures, Baidu Ventures, Pavilion Capital, BOLD Capital Partners and others, including longevity-focused company Juvenescence.

“The company is an industry leader in the AI-powered drug discovery vertical,” Qiming Managing Partner Nisa Leung said in a statement. “We look forward to seeing it shortening the time for drug discovery and creating synergies with our portfolio companies.”

RELATED: Insilico, Juvenescence and the Buck Institute form AI-based venture to tackle metabolism and aging-related diseases

Another of the company’s investors—Deep Knowledge Ventures, which has backed Insilico since its 2014 seed round—described its work as one of the fund’s most promising, and a central player among its companies focused on AI-based drug discovery and longevity.

Additionally, the firm is currently launching two new subsidiary funds in those two areas—dubbed AI-Pharma and Longevity.Capital—according to Deep Knowledge Managing Partner Margaretta Colangelo, who described (PDF) them as “hybrid investment funds” combining the features of venture and hedge funds to help derisk projects.

RELATED: WuXi AppTec to test AI-generated compounds from Insilico Medicine

Earlier this month, Insilico had its work published in Nature Biotechnology, demonstrating how machine learning networks could potentially shave years off of traditional hit-to-lead timelines for drug development.

In 21 days, the company was able to conceptualize 30,000 novel small molecules against a target linked to fibrosis. Over 25 more, Insilico and its partners synthesized the six most promising and tested them in both in vitro and live mouse models.

Within 25 more days, they had screened out and synthesized the six most promising compounds, tested them in vitro for selectivity and metabolic stability and had the lead candidate go on to show favorable activity in live mouse models.