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Debiopharm Innovation Fund

Debiopharm and Merck invest in artificial intelligence

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Debiopharm Innovation Fund, the strategic investment arm of Swiss biopharmaceutical company Debiopharm, and M Ventures, the strategic, corporate venture capital arm of Merck, and Omnes Capital invested CHF 15.5 million in French startup Iktos



By 2025, one in two drugs is expected to be discovered and developed using artificial intelligence. Iktos is a French start-up specializing in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) solutions applied to chemical research, more specifically to medicinal chemistry and new drug design. Iktos develops a proprietary and innovative solution based on generative deep learning models, which allows, from existing data, to design optimized molecules in silico to meet all the success criteria of a small molecule discovery project. The use of Iktos technology platform enables major productivity gains in upstream pharmaceutical R&D. Iktos offers its technology both as professional services and as a SaaS software platform, Makya™. Iktos also develops Spaya™, a synthesis planning software based on Iktos’ proprietary AI technology for retrosynthesis. Iktos has already validated its technology through more than 50 collaborations with pharmaceutical and biotech companies such as Chiesi Group, Galapagos, Janssen, Merck, Teijin, Ono Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer, Servier, UCB…


Currently, the early stages of drug development – identification of therapeutic target to first clinical entry – takes on average 5 years, requiring an investment of ~$ 100m per drug candidate. The artificial intelligence solutions developed by Iktos are aimed to considerably speed up the drug discovery process, while increasing the probability of success of drug candidates reaching clinical development. This approach is already validated by Iktos through more than 50 academic and industrial collaborations, with multiple pharmaceutical and biotech companies such as Janssen, Merck, Pfizer, Servier, Ono and Teijin to name only a few.


This financing will enable the company to further develop its AI and drug discovery capabilities and expand its existing SaaS software offering, in addition to launching Iktos Robotics; a unique, end-to-end, drug discovery platform which combines artificial intelligence and automation of chemical synthesis to significantly accelerate drug discovery timelines. Within the financing Iktos will additionally extend the application of its solutions to biological products (peptides, antibodies, etc.). This allows Iktos to be one of the first companies to offer fully integrated drug discovery services to the pharmaceutical industry.


Tania Dowe, CEO of Debiopharm Innovation Fund, said: “with the great team, exponentially accelerating computer power, improving AI techniques and increasingly available high quality data sets, we saw the stars aligning perfectly for Iktos. We are very excited to collaborate with an impressive syndicate of strong investors, M Ventures and Omnes Capital, to support Iktos in executing on its plans to develop cutting-edge end-to-end AIDD capabilities.”


Yann Gaston-Mathé, President and co-founder of Iktos, said: “The search for new drug matter is still a laborious and uncertain quest of exploring a chemical universe composed of virtually infinite number of potential molecules. The application of artificial intelligence to early drug discovery and design offers the possibility of a radical change for researchers exploring such chemical universe. The technologies we have developed have been enabling multiple partners in realizing this promise. We welcome our new, experienced, investor syndicate and fresh financing that will allow us to execute our plan of being the preferred partner for the industry to address their drug development needs.”



Source: Press Release