Category Archives: Agriculture

BRITISH AI FIRM RAISES £80M, VALUING IT AT £1.4BN

Wax Selection – Leaders in Pharma, Biotech & MedTech Recruitment

London-based BenevolentAI has closed an £80m funding round which included investment from the US as well as from existing backers.

British artificial intelligence firm BenevolentAI has raised £80.8m, valuing the group at £1.4 bn and marking one of the largest funding rounds in the AI pharmaceutical sector.

The firm secured the funding from investors largely based in the US, as well as from existing backers such as Woodford Investment Management.

BenevolentAI is applying artificial intelligence to develop new medicines for hard to treat diseases. To date, it has raised more than £141m in funding since its launch in 2013.

The company will use this latest cash injection to ramp up its drug development, broadening the disease areas on which it focuses and advance these programmes to the clinic.

The group – Europe’s largest private AI company – will also use the funds to further develop its self-learning system, while also helping the firm to expand outside the pharmaceutical sector to other science-based industries, such as energy storage and agriculture.

Ken Mulvany, founder and chairman of BenevolentAI, said: “We are very pleased with the response to the fundraising. It reflects the rapidly growing global interest in the AI pharmaceutical sector and the recognition of our place as the dominant player within it.

“We have come a very long way since we founded the business in 2013. The capabilities of our technology didn’t exist six years ago.

“We are pioneering this sector and have evolved into a fully integrated, AI enabled drug development company with the ability to deliver better medicines at previously unimaginable speeds – this ultimately means patients will receive the right medicines, at a lower cost, in less time.”

BenevolentAI currently employs 165 people who work in a unique, cross functional environment that incorporates leading edge data scientists, computer scientists, mathematicians and drug development R&D scientists working side by side.

The company is headquartered in London with further offices in New York and Belgium. It also has a research facility at Babraham Science Park in Cambridge.

SOURCE: www.bqlive.co.uk/london-the-south/2018/04/19

BAYER, GINKGO BIOWORKS FORM JV “JOYN BIO”

Wax Selection – Leaders in Pharma, Biotech & MedTech Recruitment

Today, Bayer and Ginkgo Bioworks announced the official name of its joint venture, Joyn Bio.

Bayer and Ginkgo founded Joyn Bio in September 2017 and have since established research operations in Boston, Massachusetts and opened additional facilities in West Sacramento, California. Joyn Bio was founded with the goal of bringing advanced techniques in synthetic biology to agriculture to support the industry’s sustainability efforts, starting with reducing the environmental impact of nitrogen fertilizer.

The plant microbiome living in roots and soil is vital to global farming practices, as it provides nutrients to plants, protects them from pests, and aids them in difficult environmental conditions. Joyn Bio’s first effort in this arena is focused on improving microbes’ ability to provide cereal crops their nitrogen requirements, offering major benefits for sustainable agriculture by reducing the need for additional chemical fertilizers.

“Nitrogen fertilizer is a key component in modern agriculture, but is costly, damaging to the environment and challenging to dose precisely. We are committed to bringing innovations to the agriculture industry that give growers a smarter and more sustainable way to grow our food,” said Johan Kers, Head of Nitrogen Fixation, Joyn Bio. “I’m thrilled to be Joyn Bio’s first employee and help the team in creating a solution that benefits growers and our environment.”

While nitrogen fixation is Joyn Bio’s first focus area, the company is exploring other disruptive applications of synthetic biology in the agriculture industry. The name Joyn Bio references the partnering of the two parent companies, as well as the natural symbiosis between plants and microbes, which is the foundation of the company’s mission.

In addition to the initial USD $100 million Series A investment by Bayer, Ginkgo, and Viking Global Investors LP, Ginkgo is providing access to its organism design technology, laboratory, and office spaces, as well as outfitting a new facility specifically for Joyn Bio. Bayer is providing exclusive access to its own archive of microbial strains and the necessary development intelligence for the application of microbes onto seeds in agriculture.

“We are excited to engage the broader life science community through Joyn Bio. As we establish the company’s scientific programs, this partnership will provide us with state-of-the-art infrastructure and access to the vibrant biotech innovations of the Boston area and agriculture expertise within the Crop Science division of Bayer and their global network of ag customers,” said Dr. Mike Miille, CEO of Joyn Bio. “Advancing our mission even further, we’re looking forward to bringing together the brightest minds in synthetic biology and AgTech as we grow the company.”

The Joyn Bio team is currently characterizing Bayer’s extensive library of more than 100,000 proprietary microbial strains using the high-throughput advanced analytics of Ginkgo’s foundries. The unprecedented scale of biological data generated using the sophisticated foundry tools is enabling Joyn Bio to identify the strains and characteristics necessary to further develop nitrogen fixing bacteria for sustainable agriculture.

Joyn Bio is the 5th investment of Leaps by Bayer, a unit of Bayer investing in the solutions to some of today’s biggest problems. Previous Leaps investments include Casebia (CRISPR/Cas technology) and BlueRock (induced pluripotent stem cell technology).

Joyn Bio has recently entered into an agreement for approximately 20,000 square feet of laboratory and office space within Ginkgo’s Boston Seaport facility hosting up to 30 employees and forming the company headquarters. Additional research efforts are performed at the West Sacramento facility, a global Bayer R&D site for microbial-based solutions in agriculture with 160,000 square feet, over 200 researchers, a state-of-the-art pilot plant, and greenhouses. Joyn Bio’s West Sacramento presence will initially be located in the recently opened, “CoLaborator,” which is Bayer’s newest biotech startup lab space dedicated to housing and fostering innovative ventures to transform modern agriculture.

To date, Joyn Bio has 10 employees split across the two sites and is actively recruiting for scientific positions related to synthetic biology, plant-microbe interactions, and soil ecosystems. Joyn Bio will have its own scientific leadership and management team enabling the company to run as an independent and sustainable organization. For more information, visit www.joynbio.com.

About Joyn Bio
Joyn Bio is a joint venture founded by Bayer and Ginkgo Bioworks developing probiotics for plants to provide growers with next generation solutions to their biggest challenges. Joyn Bio’s first area of focus will be on engineering microbes that provide cereal crops with their nitrogen needs to reduce agriculture’s reliance on nitrogen fertilizer and its environmental impact. Joyn Bio brings together microbiologists, synthetic biologists, plant scientists, and ecologists at its headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts and its plant research facility in West Sacramento, California.

For more information, visit www.joynbio.com.

SOURCE: www.agrimarketing.com