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Genesis Therapeutics Uses AI To Discover Medicines

Genesis Therapeutics is one of several companies applying AI to the drug-discovery process. Venture firm Andreessen Horowitz has co-led a $2...

Genesis Therapeutics is one of several companies applying AI to the drug-discovery process.
Venture firm Andreessen Horowitz has co-led a $200 million investment in Genesis Therapeutics, a biotechnology startup that uses artificial intelligence to discover medicines against molecular targets that have thwarted drugmakers.

Genesis is one of several companies applying AI in an effort to uncover novel medicines and make drug discovery more successful. It says this financing will enable it to launch its first clinical trials. Drugs typically work by targeting specific proteins. Most proteins have been considered “undruggable” because scientists haven’t been able to identify a compound that engages with them effectively. Genesis aims to overcome that obstacle through its technology.

The approach involves identifying potential drug compounds on a computer, or in silico, that can be synthesized physically and tested in clinical trials. “We’re not trying to replace rigorous experimental science with what we’re doing,” co-founder and Chief Executive Evan Feinberg said.

Genesis produces in silico compounds that are possible to synthesize in a reasonable amount of time, he said. The company also ranks the compounds according to parameters such as how potent and selective they are, Feinberg said. This is important because chemists can only synthesize so many compounds, he added. Vijay Pande, who became a general partner of Andreessen Horowitz in 2015, previously was a professor at Stanford University, where Feinberg earned a Ph.D. in biophysics in Pande’s lab. 

Their research led to the creation of Genesis, which Feinberg co-founded in 2019. Genesis’ technology has attracted the attention of drugmakers Eli Lilly and Genentech, which have formed collaborations with the startup. Genesis hasn’t yet disclosed specifics about its internal drug pipeline, but Feinberg said cancer is one of the diseases it is targeting. Genesis said this funding round brings its total backing to more than $280 million. It didn’t disclose the investor that co-led this round of financing. 

Genesis’ team includes Dr. Leonard Bell, its chairman, who previously founded Alexion Pharmaceuticals, a rare-disease drug developer that was acquired in 2021 by drugmaker AstraZeneca. Another is Peppi Prasit, Genesis’ acting chief scientific officer, who previously co-founded biotech startup Amira Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2011. He also was a medicinal chemist with drugmaker Merck.

The interest of pharmaceutical-industry veterans in Genesis suggests AI is increasingly accepted as an important tool for drug discovery, said Pande, founding general partner of Andreessen Horowitz’s Bio + Health group. “We’re at the point now where it’s not just technologists that see promise, it’s the people in the trenches,” Pande said.