Exscientia has secured £49m in a Series C funding round.

The Oxford-based AI drug discovery company plans to accelerate international expansion, including the USA, with the new investment.

The round was led by new investor Novo Holdings with existing investors – Evotec, Bristol Myers Squibb, and GT Healthcare Capital – participating.

Robert Ghenchev, Senior Partner and Head of Novo Growth, the growth equity arm of Novo Holdings, will join Exscientia’s board of directors.

“This investment highlights the increasing commitment to the potential of AI to transform drug discovery and the excitement that we have garnered around the innovative work we are doing at Exscientia,” said Prof. Andrew Hopkins, CEO and founder of Exscientia.

“We have now demonstrated multiple times that our platform can accelerate the time between the start of an idea and a viable new drug candidate for patients in need of treatments, fast tracking the entire R&D process.

“We are delighted that Novo Holdings, one of the world’s preeminent life science investors, recognises the potential of the platform to transform the pharmaceutical industry.”

The new capital will also be used to launch new projects, progress advanced projects to the clinic and expand its AI biology capability.

Earlier this year, the firm announced that the first ever precision engineered drug designed using AI had entered Phase I human clinical trials for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder in partnership with Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma (DSP).

The project required less than 12 months to advance the programme from target to identifying developmental candidate, just a fraction of the typical average of 4.5 years using conventional research techniques.

The company says it has been able to consistently deliver similar reductions in developmental timelines across its portfolio of projects.

In March it announced a joint initiative to identify COVID-19 antiviral treatments with Diamond Light Source and Scripps Research and last week it announced a ground-breaking collaboration with SRI International to combine fully automated synthetic chemistry with AI.

Ghenchev commented: “Through its impressive track record to date, Exscientia has demonstrated the value of combining deep scientific expertise with cutting-edge technology capabilities to significantly accelerate drug discovery.

“Novo Holdings’ investment underscores our interest in supporting technology companies that enable life science research and innovation, and our commitment to this area.

“We see significant opportunity for the company to further grow its participation in the drug discovery ecosystem and are excited to work with the Exscientia team in realising this vision.”