We got ahold of the 15-slide presentation that Deep Genomics used to pitch investors led by SoftBank on a new way to discover and develop drugs
This story is available exclusively to Business Insider subscribers. Become an Insider and start reading now.
- Deep Genomics raised $180 million in a round led by SoftBank, one of tech’s largest investors.
- The Toronto biotech is incorporating AI and a software mentality to make RNA-based medicines.
- Deep Genomics plans to have four drugs in human testing by mid-2023, CEO Brendan Frey told Insider.
In the 1990s, Brendan Frey didn’t care much about medicine.
As a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto, Frey was at the frontier of a new approach in computer science, co-inventing one of the first deep-learning algorithms. While he was working on problems like speech recognition and text analysis, a health scare in 2002 spurred him to consider applying the approach to healthcare.
“My wife was pregnant, and it turned out there was a genetic concern,” Frey said. “A genetic counselor said it could be nothing, or it could be a disaster. That was very little information that we had to try to make important decisions.”
Since then, Frey has focused his research on closing the gap between identifying genetic mutations and treating them. By 2015, Frey had seen enough potential to launch Deep Genomics. The company raised $180 million on Wednesday in a Series C financing led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2. Investors like Fidelity, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and Khosla Ventures also participated.
The Toronto-based company is one of several biotechs that have raised hundreds of millions of dollars to introduce software ideas like machine learning and AI to drug development. Seven of these companies have raised more than $2.4 billion in the past 12 months. SoftBank has been particularly active, leading the latest rounds for Deep Genomics, XtalPi, and Exscientia.
|Round + Time
|Series C, July 2021
|Series C, May 2021
|IPO, April 2021
|Series D, April 2021
|Series C, March 2021
|Series C, Sept. 2020
|Series D, Sept. 2020
|Series B, Aug. 2020
|Secondary offering, Aug. 2020
Frey plans to have 4 drugs in human testing by 2023, with 30 more in development
Deep Genomics is focused on RNA-based medicines, a space that’s become more attractive over the past year. The two leading coronavirus vaccines, developed by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, are based on messenger RNA.
While traditional research-and-development efforts for drugs typically involve screening thousands of chemicals to find active compounds, RNA medicines are built based on genetic code.
Frey, the CEO and chief engineer of Deep Genomics, said his company was specializing in a different type of RNA medicine called steric-blocking oligonucleotides. These compounds are particularly attractive because of their safety and small size, he said.
The company has 10 drug candidates in the earliest stages of development, with plans to start human testing later this year for its first drug, which targets a rare genetic disorder called Wilson disease.
Frey expects to have four drug programs in human testing and 30 more in preclinical research by mid-2023.
Frey envisions a $100 billion company
With the latest fundraising, Deep Genomics plans to start researching complex diseases and grow its workforce from 75 people to 160 by the end of 2022.
Frey said his vision was to grow Deep Genomics into a $50 billion or $100 billion company. He chose investment partners like SoftBank and Fidelity that shared this long-term vision, he said.