A prediction by Morgan Stanley claims that there is a $50 billion investment opportunity for Big Pharma that can utilise AI. Now, French pharma tech startup Aqemia generating one of the world’s fastest-growing drug discovery pipelines, has snapped an additional €30 million investment. With this, the total investment raised in the Series A round accounts for €60 million.
Aqemia will leverage this new funding to accelerate the growth of its wholly-owned pipeline of drug discovery projects and assets as well as further scale its proprietary GenAI and deep physics drug discovery platform.
“We embark on this next chapter of our history to accelerate our drug discovery programs, to build a larger proprietary pipeline beyond our projects already tested in animals, and to shape a global organisation that embraces generative AI and rigorous physics as key instruments to bring excellence in small molecule drug discovery. Aqemia’s journey continues: We’re advancing to clinical trials,” said Maximilien Levesque, CEO and co-founder of Aqemia.
“The technology developed by Aqemia from fundamental research and applied to medical research is unique in the world. We are delighted to be supporting this team, led by Maximilien Levesque and Emmanuelle Martiano, in its mission to find tomorrow’s medicines faster and more effectively,” said Victoire Laurenty, Investment Director for Wendel Growth.
GenAI to fast-track drug discovery
Aqemia has developed an AI-powered technology touted to accelerate the discovery and design of molecules with the potential to become drugs that fight different diseases. Previously, this was a complex and cost-intensive process that took many years.
It has developed a streamlined technology that integrates physics-based algorithms and generative AI to expedite drug discovery processes. Its AI model will suggest which molecules might work best. It is trained on the laws of physics that govern how molecules are built in nature.
Eyes clinical trials in 2025
Given that the French company is building its own drug discovery pipeline, it also plans to take on the pre-clinical and clinical testing of the molecules that it identifies as drug candidates.
Currently, Aqemia has produced three drug candidates targeting different types of cancer. These are undergoing pre-clinical tests in animals. The company notes that this development took less than two years and it anticipates them to progress to clinical stages next year.
$140M deal with Sanofi
Back in December 2023, Sanofi, a global pharmaceutical giant, entered a monumental $140 million deal with Aqemia. Sanofi will take hold of wet lab research, development, and commercialisation. As per the terms of the agreement, Aqemia will receive the deal amount in upfront payments and after the completion of research and development milestones.
This deal with Sanofi follows Aqemia’s collaboration deal with French drug maker Servier back in 2021 to advance an undruggable therapeutic target in immuno-oncology.
Aqemia CEO and co-founder Maximilien Levesque said, “This whole new step is about scaling our respective expertise to multiple projects and supporting Sanofi in discovering novel chemical matter at scale with our unique technology – including on difficult projects with limited chemical data upfront and hard issues like selectivity.”
How was Aqemia born?
The next-gen pharma tech startup Aqemia was founded in 2019 by Maximilien Levesque and Emmanuelle Martiano as a spin-out of Ecole Normale Superieure with knowledge of quantum physics algorithms.
Maximilien Levesque was a research group leader for six years at École normale supérieure, Paris, where he developed novel algorithms and methods based on quantum mechanics and generative AI for drug discovery. He owns a PhD in quantum mechanics from the French Atomic Energy Centre and published multiple papers in leading journals.
Later, he joined forces with Emmanuelle Martiano to start the company. Now, it combines the tech with generative AI to identify and design drug candidates.
The generative AI space in drug discovery has been growing in recent times to make it faster and cheaper to discover new drugs.
Likewise, US-based Insilico Medicine has progressed an AI-designed drug candidate to the clinical phase. It is touted to be the first fully AI-based preclinical candidate targeting an incurable lung disease likely to be out in early 2025. Another notable company is Benevolent AI, an AI-enabled drug discovery platform built with expert scientists to decipher complex disease biology, de-risk drug development, and discover more effective therapies for patients in need.
Another major company embracing AI is DeepMind Health. It uses AI to predict which DNA variations in genomes cause disease predictions that could speed the diagnosis of rare disorders and possibly yield clues for drug development.
In addition, there are numerous investments taking place in this industry. The deep learning biotech startup Evozyne using AI to simulate evolution in proteins to identify targets bagged $81 million in September last year and Genesis Therapeutics, another AI-led drug development company secured a whopping $200 million in August 2023.
With $60 million in the Series A round, Aqemia is different from other AI-driven drug discovery platforms. As per the company, it does not need chemical experimental data to train its technology for the design phase.