BenchSci raises $50m to grow AI-powered R&D platform

by Stephen Riddle

Canadian firm BenchSci has secured around $50 million in third-round financing that will be used to speed up the adoption of its artificial intelligence-powered platform for biomedical research internationally.

The Toronto-based company already counts many of the world’s largest pharma companies among its customers, using its platform for a range of tasks such as improving reagent and antibody selection to help scientists run more successful experiments, drawing on data from published studies and organisations’ internal databases.

The cash injection will “expedite the expansion” of the BenchSci platform, which it says is already used by around 49,000 scientists at more than 4,500 research centres worldwide, including 16 of the top 20 pharma companies.

The company is tapping into longstanding concerns in the life science industry about R&D productivity. In the past decade drug developers have doubled their R&D spend, but the number of drugs getting approved has stayed roughly the same, so the cost of bringing a new medicine to market has been rising.

Revenue per drug has declined, and the result is that R&D returns have fallen by 80% since 2010, to 1.9% in 2018, according to Deloitte data.

BenchSci’s ambition is to tackle inefficiencies in preclinical scientific research, speeding up drug discovery efforts and reducing costs. Ultimately, it aims to trim 50% off the time it takes to bring a drug to market.

“We’re using breakthrough machine learning technology to shape the future of how life science companies conduct research, from identifying targets, to planning experiments, to determining clinical trial risks,” said Liran Belenzon, BenchSci’s chief executive.

The new funding round takes the total raised by the company to $97 million since it was set up in 201, and was led once again by Inovia, which has been investing in it since its series A in 2018, as well as TCV.

“We strongly believe that the preclinical R&D market remains largely untapped and that BenchSci can become a category-defining leader to bring life-saving drugs to market faster,” said Dennis Kavelman, partner at Inovia.

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