SoftBank has backed an Oxford-based AI drug discovery company in Series D funding round worth up to £378 million. 

The Japanese giant’s Vision Fund 2 has contributed to a £162m round, featuring several other investors, which will drive forward Exscientia’s plan for autonomous drug design 

A further £216m capital from SoftBank is available ‘at Exscientia’s discretion’. 

The clinicalstage BioTech company uses AI across its platform from target identification through drug design and patient selection in order to precision engineer new medicines. The company has advanced the first two fully AI-designed drugs into clinical trials and now has over 20 active programs in its pipeline.

SoftBank was joined by previous round lead investors, Novo Holdings and funds managed by Blackrock. Other investors include Mubadala Investment Company, Farallon Capital, Casdin Capital, GT Healthcare Capital, Marshall Wace, Pivotal bioVenture Partners, Laurion Capital, Hongkou and Bristol-Myers Squibb.   

Funding from the Series D round will be used to advance Exscientia’s proprietary pipeline through clinical testing as well as to continue expanding the technology platform toward autonomous drug design. 

Eric Chen, Managing Partner of SoftBank Investment Advisers, said: “We believe Exscientia’s innovative use of AI to discover and design better quality drugs with greater efficiency has the potential to create important medicines faster than ever before.  

With the convergence of technology and biology, drug discovery is rapidly evolving in ways that will reshape the industry. The Exscientia team have been leaders in AI-based drug discovery since the field’s inception and we believe they will continue shaping its future.”

To date, the company has been able to advance seven precision designed drugs from project initiation to development candidate in an average time of 12 months. 

Andrew Hopkins, CEO of Exscientia, added: “All of our investors share Exscientia’s vision to discover better drugs, faster, through AI and automation.  

Our patient-first AI platform has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to precision design drugs that address patients’ needs.  

With the Series D completed, the quality and depth of our shareholder base allows us the freedom to continue to scale both our platform and pipeline.” 

Exscientia has offices in Oxford, Miami, Osaka and Dundee.