MedTech star BenevolentAI has become Europe’s largest SPAC merger after listing in Amsterdam.

The company, which uses artificial intelligence to identify and speed up drug discovery, has been valued at €1.5 billion (£1.3bn) in the deal, which will see it join the Euronext after a reverse takeover by Odyssey.

Odyssey is a blank-cheque company founded by former investment banker brothers Michael and Yoel Zaoui six months ago with a view to identifying takeover targets in the healthcare sector.

The deal will raise up to €390 million (£332m), with Benevolent AI receiving Odyssey’s €300m war-chest alongside €135m from existing backers such as Temasek via a private investment in public equity (Pipe).

AstraZeneca, which is working with BenevolentAI to find new treatments for chronic kidney disease, is among the new investors along with Ally Bridge. The SPACE shareholders and Pipe investors will take a 23.5% and 9.1% stake in the company respectively.

BenevolentAI, which featured on our MedTech 50 ranking this year, helped identify Eli Lilly’s arthritis drug baricitinib (also known as Olumiant) as a treatment for COVID-19.

A capital raise in 2018 valued the business at £1.5bn but after spending a year on the Guernsey stock exchange – at the request of major investor Neil Woodford, the star fund manager whose investment company subsequently collapsed – a £68m investment by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek halved its valuation.

It lost £55m in 2020, generating revenue of £7m and spending £75m on research.

‘Rollercoaster’ journey creates £200m business in five years

Founded by Ken Mulvany in 2013, Benevolent AI employs more than 300 people and is headquartered in London while operating a science base in Cambridge. It is led by former minister and Tory peer Baroness Joanna Shields.

“We have built BenevolentAI into a category defining business by pioneering a revolutionary approach to drug discovery and development,” said the former Google and Facebook executive.

“Our AI platform empowers scientists to leverage biomedical and experimental data at scale to understand the underlying causes of disease and develop more effective medicines, faster. 

“Every drug in our pipeline of 20+ programmes has been generated by the Benevolent Platform which has a proven track record of scientifically validated discoveries, both in-house and in partnership with leading pharmaceutical companies. 

“The combination with Odyssey will allow us to scale our vision and ambition of uniting purposeful technology and cutting-edge science to discover life-changing medicines.”


Michael Zaoui, chairman of Odyssey, said: “We established Odyssey with the objective of supporting and bringing to the European capital markets promising European growth companies in the healthcare and/or technology sectors.

“BenevolentAI is positioned at the convergence of these two sectors, is a proven leader in the emerging area of AI-driven drug discovery, and is led by a very experienced management team.

“We are convinced BenevolentAI offers superior growth prospects in a sector which itself is at an inflection point. We see our combination with BenevolentAI as a compelling investment opportunity and are convinced that this transaction will create value for all our shareholders.”