A little-known pioneer in the field of AI biotech is understood to be mulling a transformational acquisition and a US stock market listing that will put it on the radar alongside the industry’s emerging success stories.
It’s a transaction that would create the beginnings of one of the world’s largest digital healthcare ecosystems outside of the US.
Tapping into a data pool of this scale would represent a major breakthrough for Aladdin, a leader in secure blockchain technology and artificial intelligence (AI) systems that not only protect the security of healthcare data but radically speed up disease diagnosis and drug discovery.
Underlining the huge interest in AI biotech, often also referred to as pharma-tech, is a series of private fundraisers backed by some of the world’s largest drugs companies and investors.
Earlier this month Exscientia raised US$100mln in Series C financing (increased from an initial US$60mln).
BlackRock joined the latest round, while Novo Holdings and Bristol Myers Squibb were already shareholders of the Oxford-based machine learning specialist.
Exscientia is not alone in finding significant investment support.
Recursion last September brought in US$239mln and inked a partnership with German giant Bayer.
Meanwhile, Atomwise, which was initially backed by the Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator, reportedly netted US$123mln from a Series B round.
And there have been breakthroughs using this cutting-edge technology.
Benevolent AI hit the headlines early in the coronavirus outbreak by identifying Eli Lily’s arthritis drug, Baricitinib, as a potential treatment for the severe effects of the infection.
Quietly proving its capability
Aladdin, meanwhile, has been quietly proving its capability in making scientific advances in understanding and combatting viruses such as COVID-19.
It has constructed a knowledge graph consisting of 10 million edges through the text mining of over 47,000 scholarly articles about COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, and related coronaviruses.
In doing so it identified Dexamethasone amongst other repurposed drugs as a potential aid for the disease in March last year, much earlier than its peers.
A look at Aladdin’s website reveals it has possibly flown under the radar – perhaps as a result of being listed in Germany, not the most fertile of environments for technology start-ups.
A mooted listing on America’s OTC Market later in the year may help to introduce it to an investment community much more au fait with and interested in the latest developments in healthcare and artificial intelligence.
Certainly, the US is the leading source of capital for innovative new companies in the field.
Aladdin’s scientific team, drawn from Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, has won over 30 AI competitions including first prize in the internationally recognised KDD cup.
More importantly, it has developed three core platforms: drug discovery, biomedical knowledge graphs and disease diagnosis which it intends to commercialise through its acquired digital healthcare ecosystem.
As well as carrying out COVID research, Aladdin has deployed its expertise to help find treatments for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other age-related ailments such as Alzheimer’s.
The company has co-developed a cardiovascular AI-assisted diagnostic product that has gained three patents in China. It also owns the global rights and will be applying for patents in Europe and the US in due course.
Renewed focus on Alzheimer’s
Its work in Alzheimer’s, meanwhile, comes at a time of renewed scientific interest in a degenerative condition that affects 50mln people worldwide with devastating physical, emotional and financial impact to patients and families.
With no tangibly beneficial therapies to address the underlying pathology, new approaches are urgently needed, and Aladdin believes through its proprietary AI new discoveries can be accelerated significantly alongside innovative approaches such as autophagy.
Drug companies are responding by redoubling their efforts in developing pharmaceutical treatments, while influential groups such as the Alzheimer’s Society are supporting AI-based research.
“AI is a growing area of dementia research. It holds huge potential for more accurate, early diagnosis of the condition as well as predicting its progression,” the Society said on its website.
“We look forward to seeing how this exciting field grows and develops in the coming years. We will continue to support research in this ever-changing field.”