Aramco’s Prosperity7 powers AI drug firm Insilico’s $95M round – TechCrunch
Hong Kong-based drug discovery and development company Insilico has secured fresh funding at a time its CEO describes as “Biotech Winter.”
The company raised $35 million after Last installment in June, bringing the total Series D investment to $95 million. The company’s founder and CEO, Alex Zhavoronkov, told TechCrunch, declining to disclose the company’s value.
Prosperity7, the venture capital arm of Saudi Arabia’s state oil company Aramco, led the new round of funding. Fund has been actively looking for opportunities in and around China could expand globally and especially in the Middle East.
Insilico, which runs R&D teams across Hong Kong, Shanghai and New York, looks like a good fit for Prosper7.
“Prosperity7 inspired us to work on sustainable chemistry,” said Zhavoronkov. Insilico uses machine learning to identify potential drug targets and ultimately create the drug. The same technology can also be applied to find new and useful molecules for sustainable chemistry, an emerging field in which Aramco has devoted much effort, the founders explained.
Sustainable chemistry, like determined by the OECD, is “a scientific concept that enhances the efficient use of natural resources to meet human needs for chemical products and services.” It “includes the design, manufacture and use of chemical products and processes that are more efficient, effective, safe and environmentally benign.”
Other investors in the round include a “large, diversified West Coast wealth management firm” and a range of financial and strategic investors such as BHR Partners, Warburg Pincus, B Capital Group , Qiming Venture Partners, Deerfield, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, BOLD Capital Partners, and Pavilion Capital.
Zhavoronkov himself also invests in Series D financing.
When asked why the company straddles China and the US, the founder compared the drug discovery space to the early semiconductor industry, where research was mainly done in the US while manufacturing hardware. Hardening took place in China.
AI drug discovery relies on a large amount of investment in so-called contract research organizations (CROs), which provide support to pharmaceutical or medical device companies in the form of outsourcing. China, typically cities like Wuxi, has in recent years emerged as a Popular CRO center for international pharmaceutical companies.
The founder was also keen to talk about the company’s new dual CEO structure. He recently promoted GSK veteran Dr. Feng Ren as his Co-CEO, who currently oversees Insilico’s R&D and drug business, while Zhavoronkov focuses on the company’s AI platform. company.
“Ren generates a lot of proprietary data for us to train AI to do better than humans. We can use this technology internally for drug discovery and then export this technology to the rest of the industry,” said Zhavoronkov.