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Exclusive: Medical AI startup Owkin just secured $80 million as it gears up to launch a drug trial with the pharmaceutical giant Bristol Myers Squibb-Statusmarkets

Exclusive: Medical AI startup Owkin just secured  million as it gears up to launch a drug trial with the pharmaceutical giant Bristol Myers Squibb-Statusmarkets
Written by bobby
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  • The medical artificial-intelligence startup Owkin, a unicorn, just secured $80 million.
  • It’s set to partner with the pharmaceutical firm Bristol Myers Squibb on a drug trial.
  • The pair hope Owkin’s technology will help bring drugs to market faster through efficient trials.

The medical artificial-intelligence unicorn Owkin has secured $80 million as it gears up to launch a drug trial with the American pharmaceutical giant Bristol Myers Squibb.

The French-American startup, which was founded in 2016, has developed an technology to speed up drug discovery and development. Its platform allows doctors, medical researchers, and pharmaceutical companies to identify new drug candidates, and clinical trials while drawing on health data from usually siloed sources such as hospitals across the US and Europe.

The $80 million is split between a Series B-1 equity round, led by Bristol Myers Squibb, and up-front fees for a clinical trial for cardiovascular drugs using Owkin’s technology. The company couldn’t reveal exact figures, but a source familiar with the terms of the deal says the equity investment stands at $50 million.

The fresh funding brings the startup’s total raised to over $300 million, building on a previously announced $250 million.

The goal is that the AI technology will bring these new drugs to market faster via more precise and effective trials.

Owkin’s AI seeks to make clinical trials more efficient for patients,  because the technology can predict certain biomarkers for diseases and treatment outcomes for diseases like breast cancer. The startup’s technology also aims to estimate the effectiveness of treatments using covariate adjustment — a technique to increase the trial’s statistical power without increasing the sample size — and patient data from previous clinical trials.

For example, Owkin’s technology was used to scan and analyze digital tumor slides using a patient’s medical history and other medical data, such as surgery type, according to FierceBioTech. In another study, the technology scanned tumors to predict more effective treatment responses for patients with mesothelioma. 

“If you try to develop a drug for all patients, it’s becoming harder and harder,” Owkin’s CEO and cofounder, Thomas Clozel told Insider. “Finding what population you want to develop the drug into and the right diagnostic tools to detect them is really something that we need to bring forward.”

The company could raise further investment from Bristol Myers Squibb if it meets specific milestones through the trial.

The investment comes after a three-year relationship between the startup and the drug giant. Clozel hopes this new partnership with Bristol Myers Squibb will show that Owkin can improve the workflow of clinical trials, which he said it did for drug discovery with the French healthcare company Sanofi.

The startup struck a similar partnership last year with Sanofi that saw the multinational invest $180 million in Owkin while applying its technology to drug discovery for four types of cancers.

“Despite many advances from Bristol Myers Squibb and the field in general, cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death globally,” said Venkat Sethuraman, the global-biometrics and data-sciences head at the pharmaceutical company.

“We are taking a translational approach to cardiovascular drug discovery and development — subtyping patient populations to identify targeted therapeutics, expanding the use of biomarkers and real-world data to better design trials, and ultimately determining which patients are most likely to benefit from treatments.”

The startup’s service that makes clinical trials more effective for patients is free for researchers but sold to pharmaceutical companies. Owkin plans to also run drug discovery in house, developing its own intellectual property, which it would then take to pharmaceutical companies to take to market.

“We want to become an AI biotech to de-risk treatments and find new treatments at scale,” Clozel said.

The 180-employee company, which plans to grow to 250 employees with the new investment, employs a “brick by brick” approach to creating solutions for unmet medical needs. It will next look at autoimmune drugs.

Owkin plans to use the cash to grow in the US and Europe, expand its data network, and develop its own IP pipeline of treatments.

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bobby

Hi, I am Bobby. Blogger India. I love writing, and reading articles. Blogging is my passion. I have started my blogging career in 2016.

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