Benevolent AI

Description

Founded in 2013, Benevolent AI is a technology company that, through the application of artificial intelligence, aims to disrupt the process of scientific innovation. Benevolent AI uses its technology to mine and analyse vast reams of academic literature, studies and other data about particular diseases, enabling researchers to come up with more conclusive hypotheses in a fraction of the time.

We’ve known its CEO, Ken Mulvany, for several years, initially at Proximagen, a UK biotechnology business that was acquired by Upsher-Smith (a US-based pharma company). We first invested in Benevolent AI back in 2014, when the company joined the Woodford Equity Income Fund as Stratified Medical, and later on, in 2015, it was added it to the Woodford Patient Capital Trust’s portfolio. In 2016, the business restructured and rebranded as Benevolent AI.

Investment case summary

Our investment case in Benevolent AI revolves around the commercial potential of its AI technology, which can be applied across a wide range of industries. Its most advanced opportunity is in healthcare where it has the potential to substantially accelerate the drug discovery and development cycle. Benevolent AI’s technology is capable of mapping diseases, enabling researchers to make connections between data points that could have otherwise been missed and, ultimately, to identify new targets and ways of treating medical conditions.

If the research and development process can be reduced by just a few years, the ultimate increase in pipeline value of healthcare companies that use Benevolent AI’s technology can run into billions of dollars, while also potentially saving hundreds of millions of dollars at the discovery stages. Therefore, a key value driver for Benevolent AI’s technology is its capability to shorten the drug research and development cycle and increase the probability of success through each stage.

The company has already identified a number of assets that are being developed as potential treatments for a range of diseases, including motor neurone disease and Parkinson’s disease. Importantly however, while Benevolent AI aims to make an attractive return on its technology, it is developing artificial intelligence to solve real world problems in a constructive manner, not just within the biotechnology space but also across other industries. The company has already demonstrated tangible progress on the road to commercialisation, which is reflected in the progressively higher valuation. However, we expect much more to come as Benevolent AI continues to move towards the next stage of its journey.

Ask a question about our investment in Benevolent AI

Fund exposure
Equity Income Fund 3.88%
Patient Capital Trust 8.69%

As at 30 November 2018

Segmentation
Geography United Kingdom
Industry Technology
Themes Disruptive technology

Source: Woodford

Commentary

New group CEO appointment

Baroness Joanna Shields, the former UK Minister for Internet Security and Safety and special advisor to the government on the digital economy, was appointed as Benevolent AI’s new group CEO. Joanna Shields is an experienced digital entrepreneur and executive who, prior to working in the public sector, spent 25 years within the digital private sector, holding leadership positions at companies such as Facebook, Bebo and Google.

It is a key appointment for Benevolent AI that reflects the rapid growth of this exciting and highly disruptive technology business and which will enable the company to strengthen its position as a market leader in developing and applying artificial intelligence for scientific discovery.

Saku Saha
2 May 2018

WPCT 2017 annual report case study

Intelligent research

In less than 50 years, artificial intelligence will be able to beat humans at all of their own tasks, according to an Oxford University study. Benevolent AI could claim that it is doing that in the pharmaceutical field and, according to a University of Oxford study, healthcare research already1.

Each year, more than one million research papers are published in the quest to discover new drugs, yet the vast majority are overlooked because researchers simply do not have the capacity to analyse them all.

Using artificial intelligence, Benevolent AI is able to mine and analyse vast reams of academic literature, studies and other data about particular diseases, enabling researchers to come up with more conclusive hypotheses in a fraction of the time.

Faster to market

Getting a successful drug to market faster has positive commercial implications too. A drug’s patent typically lasts 20 years, but it can take up to 12 years after a drug’s discovery to get it to market, leaving just eight years of patent protection remaining. If Benevolent Al is able to extend this patent protection to more than 10 years, the net benefit could be significant, not forgetting the hundreds of millions of pounds that will be saved by having a shorter development stage.

Set up in 2013, London-based Benevolent AI’s technology has so far led to potential breakthroughs for previously untreatable conditions such as motor neurone disease (ALS) and cystic fibrosis. Its ground-breaking technology has also not gone unnoticed by the industry, including several major pharmaceutical companies. In April 2018, it received $115m in additional funding from new and existing investors, to hire more people and expand its focus to new diseases. This new investment now values the business at just over $2bn.

24 April 2018

Read the full report

Funding round

Benevolent AI announced today that it has raised $115m of funding from existing and new investors, including Goldman Sachs, at a pre-money valuation of $2bn. This is one of the largest funding rounds ever within the AI pharmaceutical sector and the funds will be used to scale its drug development activities, broaden the disease areas on which it focuses and to extend its AI capabilities to other science-based industries like advanced materials, agriculture and energy storage. We see this as another highly positive development for the company, which is making excellent progress on its journey towards delivering its commercial potential.

Saku Saha
19 April 2018

Footnotes

  1. When Will AI Exceed Human Performance? The Future Humanity Institute, University of Oxford, May 2017.

Woodford Investment Management Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (firm reference number 745433). Incorporated in England and Wales, company number 10118169. Registered address 9400 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2HN.

Woodford Patient Capital Trust plc is incorporated in England and Wales, company number 09405653. Registered as an investment company under section 833 of the Companies Act 2006. Registered address Beaufort House, 51 New North Road, Exeter, EX4 4EP.

The Woodford Funds (Ireland) ICAV (the “Fund”) has appointed as Swiss Representative Oligo Swiss Fund Services SA, Av. Villamont 17, 1005 Lausanne, Switzerland. The Fund’s Swiss paying agent is Neue Helvetische Bank AG. All fund documentation including, Prospectus, Key Investor Information Documents, Instrument of Incorporation and financial reports may be obtained free of charge from the Swiss Representative in Lausanne. The place of performance and jurisdiction for all shares distributed in or from Switzerland is at the registered office of the Swiss Representative. Fund prices can be found at www.fundinfo.com.

© 2019 Woodford Investment Management Ltd.
All rights reserved.

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