Healthtech
Q1 202422.01.2024

Drug Discovery

Picture of Éanna Kelly

Éanna Kelly

at Sifted

Despite billions of pounds of investment, few new treatments for major diseases, from cancer to dementia, have made it to market in recent years. Some nine out of 10 drugs that enter clinical trials fail to get approved. Any drugs that do make it have (traditionally) survived a knotty 12-15 year journey, at a typical development cost of over $2bn. Anything that can speed up the drug hunt represents a win — and a new crop of startups say they can get us on the fast track with algorithm-designed drug discovery.

AI proponents say the tech proved itself during the Covid-19 crisis, when pharmaceutical companies used AI to optimise vaccines. Many of these companies have increased their interest in using the tool in the years since and have signed partnerships with AI startups to accelerate progress. Boston Consulting Group counts over 100 drug candidates designed with the help of AI for conditions including lymphoma, inflammatory diseases and motor neurone disease, that are currently in discovery and pre-clinical development.

Is it the start of a revolution? For doubters, it won’t be until a regulator approves a drug discovered entirely by AI. But it's worth noting the difference between startups screening known chemical libraries and those generating new digital molecular structures to bind with a specific target. The latter approach may be more difficult, but potentially more groundbreaking — so keep an eye out for any breakthroughs.

20 startups to watch

  • CHARM Therapeutics logo

    Sifted score

    9.02
    -

    CHARM Therapeutics

    3D deep learning for undruggable diseases.

    • Strong investor(s)
    • Serial founder(s)
    • Hiring
    • Year founded

      2021

    • HQ

      London, United Kingdom

    • Latest round

      Early VC
      18.2m / Apr 2023

    • Total funding

      75.1m

  • Multiomic Health logo

    Sifted score

    7.57
    -

    Multiomic Health

    Personalized treatment for metabolic syndrome.

    • Strong investor(s)
    • Serial founder(s)
    • Year founded

      2021

    • HQ

      London, United Kingdom

    • Latest round

      Seed
      5.6m / May 2023

    • Total funding

      8m

  • Ochre Bio logo

    Sifted score

    7.43
    -

    Ochre Bio

    Precision RNA therapies for liver regeneration.

    • Strong investor(s)
    • Serial founder(s)
    • Hiring
    • Year founded

      2019

    • HQ

      Oxford, United Kingdom

    • Latest round

      Series A
      27.3m / Oct 2022

    • Total funding

      36.1m

  • Iris.ai logo

    Sifted score

    7.09
    -

    Iris.ai

    Scientific literature access and analysis.

    • Strong investor(s)
    • Hiring
    • Year founded

      2015

    • HQ

      Oslo, Norway

    • Latest round

      Seed
      2.4m / Dec 2022

    • Total funding

      8.4m

  • Celeris Therapeutics logo

    Sifted score

    7.01
    -

    Celeris Therapeutics

    Targeted protein degraders for unmet diseases.

    • Strong investor(s)
    • Serial founder(s)
    • Hiring
    • Year founded

      2021

    • HQ

      Graz, Austria

    • Latest round

      Seed
      10m / Oct 2022

    • Total funding

      7.3m

Related Briefings

Related articles

Octopus-backed AI biotech CellVoyant raises £7.6m to make stem cell therapies cheaper

January 15, 2024

Octopus-backed AI biotech CellVoyant raises £7.6m to make stem cell therapies cheaper

By Sadia Nowshin
GenAI biotech Cradle raises $24m Series A led by Index Ventures

November 28, 2023

GenAI biotech Cradle raises $24m Series A led by Index Ventures

By Mimi Billing
How AI startups are fully automating drug discovery
HealthtechAnalysis

March 30, 2023

How AI startups are fully automating drug discovery

Founding team at Iktos
In partnership with Debiopharm Innovation Fund
Why global collaboration is the answer to medtech and biotech's biggest challenges
HealthtechAnalysis

January 5, 2023

Why global collaboration is the answer to medtech and biotech's biggest challenges

Nerida Scott, Head at Johnson & Johnson Innovation EMEA
Sponsored by Johnson & Johnson Innovation
Have AI drug discovery startups delivered on their promise 10 years on?
DeeptechAnalysis

November 8, 2022

Have AI drug discovery startups delivered on their promise 10 years on?

Andrew Hopkins Exscientia CEO
By Clara Rodríguez Fernández
Call it techbio or biotech, more European VCs are betting on life sciences
BiotechAnalysis

July 18, 2022

Call it techbio or biotech, more European VCs are betting on life sciences

Stock image of a Scientist in a laboratory
By Selin Bucak and Eleanor Warnock