AI pharma start-up BenevolentAI now worth $2 billion after $115 million funding boost

British artificial intelligence start-up BenevolentAI has bagged $115 million from investors, lifting its pre-money valuation to $2 billion.

The London-based firm, which is focused on the pharmaceutical industry, said the latest round of funding will help it scale drug development and its AI platform.

The company currently has more than 20 drug programs. It said it will use the raised capital to expand into other areas of the market like advanced materials, agriculture and energy storage.

Its AI technology is used to decipher the molecular process of disease and match drug treatments to the most applicable patients.

BenevolentAI created a bioscience machine “brain” that uses algorithms and data to locate the cause of diseases and generate insights into them that humans otherwise couldn’t. Its platform is being used to develop treatments for incurable diseases like motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s disease, glioblastoma and sarcopenia.

Some worry that the U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union could hamper innovation and scientific research. The EU’s single market lets firms move goods, capital, services and labor freely and the soon-to-be 27-member bloc offers funding schemes for science and research programs.

But Ken Mulvany, founder and chairman of BenevolentAI, said that Britain remained an attractive hub for science.

“There’s a tremendous heritage of scientific innovation here in the U.K.,” he told CNBC’s “Street Signs Europe.” “It certainly has been batting well above its weight in that respect.”

The British government launched an initiative last year to boost skills and education and grow the country’s AI industry. Mulvany said the government’s strategy on AI was positive for the sector.

“The U.K. is one of the leading sectors for AI innovation,” Mulvany said. “You see it in Toronto, you see it in Stanford and we’re seeing it in the knowledge quarter here in London.”

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