Artificial Intelligence: Daphne Koller Raises $143M For Insitro, Her AI-Bio Startup

Insitro is a startup that combines cutting-edge biopharma with machine learning.

Daphne Koller is the face of Insitro. Venture capitalists swear by her and have just handed her $143 million to be used by Insitro for boosting its capabilities to develop new drugs.

The startup has therefore raised $243 million in total to date. That’s a not inconsequential sum considering it has only been in existence for two years. But then Koller inspires trust: she is a co-founder of online education platform Coursera, a computer science professor at Stanford, and a MacArthur Fellowship recipient. (Forbes)

Andreessen Horowitz led the $143 million funding round. New investors who participated included T. Rowe Price Associate, BlackRock, Casdin Capital, and CPP Investments. Current investors including ARCH Venture Partners, GV, and Third Rock Ventures also invested.

VCs back Koller’s exceptional attributes

Vijay Pande, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz and a member of Insitro’s board, says Koller is “a pioneer at the intersection of machine learning and biopharma,” and “exactly the type of entrepreneur we are looking for.”

“She’s just exceptional,” says Robert Nelsen of ARCH Venture Partners.

What Insitro does

In its goal to find new drugs that focus on liver diseases and disorders of the central nervous systems, Insitro uses a rare combination of biology and machine learning.

It creates “test-tube experiments” that replicate cells in an environment outside the human body. From these, Insitro tries to predict what drug developers would see in a live but diseased human being. The researchers use machine learning to pinpoint differences between healthy cells and sick cells. The results from these studies could help in the development of new drug targets.

The start-up is currently working on a drug for liver disease for which it has a tie-up with Gilead – the three-year deal envisaged a $ 15 million upfront payment and potential for payments of $ 1 billion down the line. Insitro gets access to data from Gilead’s clinical trials which it can use to train its machine learning platform.

Insitro is also working on its own set of central nervous system disorders such as bipolar.

Related Story:  AI Algorithm Diagnoses Alzheimer’s Disease Better Than Experts

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