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

A slide deck titled "Series C: May 2021" shows two workers in a lab wearing white coats and looking at computers.
  • 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.

CompanyAmount RaisedRound + Time
Deep Genomics$180 millionSeries C, July 2021
PathAI$165 millionSeries C, May 2021
Recursion Pharmaceuticals$463 millionIPO, April 2021
Exscientia$225 millionSeries D, April 2021
Insitro$400 millionSeries C, March 2021
XtalPi$319 millionSeries C, Sept. 2020
Recursion Pharmaceuticals$239 millionSeries D, Sept. 2020
Atomwise$123 millionSeries B, Aug. 2020
Schrodinger$326 millionSecondary 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.

Insider got a copy of the slide deck that Deep Genomics used in May as it closed its $180 million Series C round.

The biotech positions itself in the RNA-medicine space, which has boomed thanks to the success of the first mRNA vaccines against COVID-19.

Deep Genomics has a simple business pitch with huge potential. By combining RNA technology with big data and AI, it can program “the best RNA therapies for almost any gene in any genetic condition,” it says.

Like the coronavirus vaccine makers Moderna and BioNTech, Deep Genomics seems mostly focused on the mRNA molecule.

The experimental drug programs the company is working on could generate more than $5 billion in peak annual sales, Deep Genomics says.

The employment histories highlighted on this slide are telling in how Deep Genomics positions itself at the intersection of RNA therapies and AI: Moderna, Pfizer, and Merck are joined by tech giants like Facebook, Microsoft, and Google.

One of pharma’s biggest challenges is boosting R&D productivity. Most drug candidates fail in clinical trials. Deep Genomics says its approach focuses on predicting success or failure early on.

There are a lot of modifications Deep Genomics can make to RNA molecules.

Deep Genomics plans to have started human testing on four drug candidates by 2023. The biotech has 10 experimental therapies in the earliest stages of development.

Most genetic medicine is focused on diseases with simpler genetic causes. Collecting massive amounts of data could allow Deep Genomics to gain insights into more complicated yet more prevalent diseases.

Deep Genomics is starting to develop its own pipeline of drugs. That includes a partnership with the California biotech BioMarin.

Deep Genomics claims it can boost the odds of preclinical success for drugs to 50% from 10%.

The company expects to have more than 30 drug programs in development with several in human testing in three years.

Deep Genomics says the latest round of funding will allow it to push ahead in advancing drug candidates closer to human testing and screening more genes.