TwoXar, a biopharmaceutical startup that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to identify and develop new medicines, has raised $10 million in a series A round of funding led by SoftBank’s early-stage venture capital firm, SoftBank Ventures, with participation from Andreessen Horowitz and Braintree founder Bryan Johnson’s OS Fund.
Founded out of Palo Alto in 2014, TwoXar offers an AI platform that promises to reduce the cost and time it takes to identify new drugs, which can often be up to 15 years. By bypassing traditional laboratory approaches to merge cloud computing and big data with AI, TwoXar believes its drug-discovery platform is “order of magnitudes faster, cheaper, and more accurate” when it comes to finding promising new drug candidates. The company said these predictive models can expedite the drug development process to the point that viable candidates are ready for “in vivo” testing (in animals) within weeks, rather than years. TwoXar’s focus so far has included diseases such as type 2 diabetes, liver cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis.
“The application of AI in drug discovery has shifted from speculative to practical and will be a major driver of drug development efficiencies in the biopharmaceutical industry,” noted TwoXar cofounder and CEO Andrew A. Radin. “We are pleased to be aligned with SoftBank Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, and OS Fund, who are leaders in investing in applications of AI in biology and bring operational and business development expertise to TwoXar as we continue to build our pipeline of drug programs.”
SoftBank has a number of funds under its wing, and the Japanese technology giant made some massive investments in 2017 through its Vision Fund. Its Korea-based SoftBank Ventures offshoot hasn’t traditionally invested in many life science startups across its 18-year history, but this is clearly a burgeoning space that’s drawing more attention.
“SoftBank Ventures invests to accelerate the information revolution and is increasingly interested in the application of artificial intelligence in health care,” added SoftBank Ventures managing director JP Lee. “TwoXar is a clear leader in the rapidly growing AI-based drug discovery market, and we are proud to lead this new financing round and support the company’s commitment to expanding treatment options for rare and common diseases.”
TwoXar had raised $4.3 million in seed funding back in 2015, with Andreessen Horowitz serving as lead investor. Andreessen Horowitz has launched two bio funds, including a $200 million pot back in 2015 and a $450 million follow-up three months ago. Bryan Johnson founded OS Fund shortly after eBay bought his Braintree payments startup for $800 million, and he put $100 million of his own cash into the fledgling VC firm. OS Fund has gone on to make more than 30 investments across the AI and health science spectrum, with two exits so far.
The life science space is clearly ripe for investment, with the likes of Alphabet’s GV making a number of investments in this field in recent times. Earlier this month, San Francisco-based Atomwise, another AI-driven drug discovery platform, raised a chunky $45 million series A round. As it happens, OS Fund had previously invested in one of Atomwise’s earlier seed rounds.