Recursion Pharmaceuticals is one of the original leading names in AI-fueled drug discovery since its inception in 2013. Recently, the company joined forces with German pharma giant Bayer to research treatment options for fibrotic diseases, which cause the overdevelopment of scar tissue that can potentially hinder organ function.
The partnership comes after Recursion’s Series D funding round, which raised a total of $239 million. Leaps by Bayer contributed $50 million, while remaining funding came from Baillie Gifford, Casdin Capital, and other investors. The agreement with Bayer also includes a $30 million initial payment for Recursion to use for research on fibrotic kidney, lung, and heart diseases.
Most drug discovery companies that utilize AI rely on existing datasets. Recursion flipped the script on AI drug discovery, and rather than combing through information that is already available, the company works on developing new data for their algorithms to parse through. Recursion’s robots perform one million experiments each week, infecting healthy cells and recording the outcomes every step of the way.
In this way, the company creates its own database to which they can apply machine learning techniques to differentiate the sick cells from the healthy cells. This process lays the foundation for the robots to determine which possible treatment option can be used to restore the health and function of the sick cells. Now Recursion will be able to utilize Bayer’s collection of small-molecule treatment options in the journey to find successful drugs.
“We are driving forward digital transformation in R&D as we believe that digital technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, offer a myriad of novel opportunities to address the complex biology of many diseases and identify new treatments for patients,” said Joerg Moeller, Bayer’s Head of Research and Development.
Under the agreement, the two companies could develop over 10 research projects, each carrying a milestone award of $100 million. Bayer will have exclusive licensing options for the new treatments and drug therapies that result from their combined research. With more than 30 programs already coming down Recursion’s pipeline, the partnership has the potential to bring new therapies to market in a few years’ time.