Turbine raises €20m for AI platform to deliver targeted cancer treatments
Turbine – a London-based company with a cell simulation platform that can predict the effectiveness of cancer treatments – has completed a €20m Series A financing round. Mercia and MSD Global Health Innovation (GHI) Fund (MSD is the trade name of Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway NJ, USA) co-led the financing, joined by Day One Capital and existing investors Accel, Delin Ventures, and XTX Ventures.
Turbine, which has offices in Cambridge and Budapest, will use the funding to further develop its AI-powered platform, expand its team and develop new commercial partnerships with biopharmaceutical companies.
The Simulated Cell™ platform offers a computer model of the inner signalling network of cancer cells to provide a deeper understanding of their biology and the potential impact of treatments. It can be used to identify novel cancer therapies, improve the likelihood of success of clinical trials, predict the efficacy of cancer drug combinations and allow existing drugs to be targeted at the patients most likely to benefit.
Turbine works with pharma companies seeking to understand and overcome causes of resistance to therapy and develop new drug treatments. Its technology has already guided the drug development pipelines of Bayer and two other top 20 global pharma companies and has successfully identified dozens of clinically validated drug targets – cancer cell proteins that drugs could target – which would not be spotted using other types of computational approaches.
A spinout of the Technical University of Budapest, Turbine was founded in 2016 by Kristof Szalay, Daniel Veres and Szabolcs Nagy to overcome the limitations of existing methods in identifying targeted treatments to benefit individual patients.
“MSD GHI looks forward to enabling acceleration of Turbine’s growth and expansion,” said David M. Rubin, Ph.D., Managing Director, MSD GHI Fund. “We believe Turbine’s Simulated Cell™ has the potential to transform key aspects of the oncology drug discovery and development process, providing insight at scale that will shed light on even the most challenging biological mechanisms.”
Mercia was investing from its Northern Venture Capital Trust (VCT) funds. Daniela Tsoneva of Mercia said: “Turbine technology addresses historic challenges to drug development and is already validated by early work with large pharma partners. We are excited to support the company as it advances its platform, deepens our collective understanding of cancer biology, and makes drug development more efficient and more successful across the biopharma industry.”
“The idea sprung from our frustration that experiments frequently lead to expensive and time-consuming drug development failures,” said Szabolcs Nagy, chief executive officer and co-founder, Turbine. “We’ve come a long way since 2016, when a handful of biologists and data scientists bootstrapped a technology to predict experiments better reflecting patients and more likely to translating in the clinic. With over 60 experts across the globe and the support of investors like MSD Global Health Innovation Fund, we’re poised to demonstrate that simulations not only reveal new ways of treating cancer but increase the likelihood of success at every single step towards the clinic.”
Osborne Clark LLP provided legal advice to Turbine on the transaction. Paul Hastings LLP and Green Shoots Consulting advised the MSD Global Health Innovation Fund and Eversheds Sutherland acted for Mercia.
Based in London, UK, with offices in Budapest, Hungary and Cambridge, UK, Turbine was founded in 2016 by Kristof Szalay, Ph.D., Daniel Veres, M.D., Ph.D., and Szabolcs Nagy to overcome the limitations of existing methods in identifying oncology treatments that truly benefit the patients who receive them by combining molecular biology and artificial intelligence (AI). Since its founding, Turbine has developed and validated the Simulated Cell™, a proprietary and cutting-edge platform that runs billions of simulations prior to ever initiating preclinical development guiding real-life experiments with invaluable biological insights. This improves the likelihood of success for truly novel therapies and allows existing assets to be optimally targeted to patients most likely to benefit from them. Turbine’s technology leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to build a constantly evolving, predictive simulation of cellular signaling. These virtual cells are used for in silico experiments having never been run in lab, capturing patient biology better than available experimental models and testing more drug-like effects than current high throughput screening approaches. Validating the uncovered mechanisms and using the resulting data as feedback further improves the model’s capabilities to reveal novel biological mechanisms.
Simulations have already been validated from target discovery to patient stratification and life cycle management in collaborations with multiple big pharma companies. Turbine is now leveraging the Simulated Cell™ platform to develop its own stream of programs; expanding from an early focus on overcoming resistance to DNA Damage Response (DDR) inhibitors, the company is pursuing multiple high unmet oncology needs. Turbine is also working with partners to extend its pipeline to various modalities and cancer mechanisms. For more information, visit www.turbine.ai.
Mercia is a proactive venture capital investor that aims to be the first-choice partner for growth. Mercia currently has c. £959million of assets under management and, since its IPO in December 2014, has a portfolio of over 400 start-ups from pre-seed to Series B and beyond. Mercia makes initial equity investments of between £250k and £10million across all sectors, specialising in Software, Consumer and Life Science investments. Within the Life Sciences sector, Mercia supports innovations in biotechnology, digital healthcare and medical devices, which enable efficiencies and deliver material improvements in the standard of care. The firm has nine offices in the UK and over 60 in its investment team, all drawing on their experiences as founders, PhD scientists, software engineers, corporate financiers and management consultants to help our partner companies successfully achieve their ambitions.
Mercia’s venture funds sit alongside the Mercia Group’s wider private equity, debt and proprietary balance sheet capital, in order to provide a ‘Complete Connected Capital’ solution for our portfolio. Mercia Asset Management PLC is quoted on AIM with the epic "MERC". www.mercia.co.uk