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Wednesday 17 October 2018

Artificial intelligence firm valued at £1.4bn after latest funding round

BenevolentAI secured new funding from investors in the US as well as from existing backers.

Artificial intelligence firm BenevolentAI has raised 115 million US dollars, marking one of the largest funding rounds in the sector (Anthony Devlin/PA)
Artificial intelligence firm BenevolentAI has raised 115 million US dollars, marking one of the largest funding rounds in the sector (Anthony Devlin/PA)

By Holly Williams, Press Association Deputy City Editor

British artificial intelligence firm BenevolentAI has raised 115 million US dollars (£80.8 million) in a move valuing the group at two billion US dollars (£1.4 billion) and marking one of the largest funding rounds in the sector.

BenevolentAI, which uses artificial intelligence to make new drug discoveries, secured the funding from investors largely based in the US, as well as from existing backers including star fund manager Neil Woodford’s Woodford Investment Management.

The latest funding round means BenevolentAI has now raised more than 200 million US dollars (£141 million) since its launch in 2013.

It said it would put the latest cash towards ramping up its drug development, broadening the disease areas on which it focuses and advance these programmes to the clinic.

The group – Europe’s largest private AI company – will also use some of the funds to further develop its self-learning system, while also helping the firm to expand outside the pharmaceutical sector to other science-based industries, such as energy storage and agriculture.

Ken Mulvany, founder and chairman of BenevolentAI, said the fundraising “reflects the rapidly growing global interest in the emerging AI pharmaceutical sector and a recognition of our place as the dominant player within it”.

He added the firm had come a “very long way” since launching in 2013.

“We have now pioneered into a fully integrated, AI enabled drug development company with the ability to deliver better medicines at radically decreased drug development times – the efficiency ultimately means patients will receive the right medicines, at a lower cost, in less time,” he said.

BenevolentAI develops medicines for hard to treat diseases and cuts down the cost and failure rates in traditional drug development.

It uses software to understand the cause of disease and generate drug candidates at scale, and has created a bioscience machine brain to help discover new medicines and cures for diseases.

Its work so far has suggested it can cut early stage drug discovery by four years and potentially improve the entire drug development programme by 60% against industry averages.

The technology is being used to develop treatments across a wide range of diseases, including Motor Neuron Disease and Parkinson’s Disease.

The company employs 165 staff and is headquartered in London with further offices in New York and Belgium, as well as a research facility in Cambridge.

Press Association

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