SALT LAKE CITY — One of Utah's fastest-growing biotech companies, Recursion Pharmaceuticals, announced a $121 million funding round this week, pushing the 6-year-old startup's total financing north of a quarter-billion dollars.
The company, born of research began at the University of Utah, has innovated a technique to discover new drugs that melds robot-driven automation with digital artificial intelligence. The work, according to the company, is creating an innovation path that could revolutionize how new drugs are developed to battle some of the rarest and most challenging of human medical conditions.
Recursion co-founder and CEO Chris Gibson reeled off a slew of benchmarks the company has reached since closing its last round of funding in 2017, which brought $60 million in new capital to the company.
“In under two years since closing our Series B round, we have put two drugs discovered on our platform into clinical trials, had our first discoveries with Takeda optioned, grown our automated experimental bandwidth by an order of magnitude, expanded beyond rare diseases into new therapeutic areas like inflammation, infectious disease and immuno-oncology, grown our team from 64 to 150-plus and added all-stars from the biotech and tech worlds, and opened a state-of-the-art, 100,000-square-foot headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City,” Gibson said in a statement.
The startup was founded in 2013 with a new approach to drug discovery that began as the core of doctoral research performed by Gibson at the U. The method relies on automating the once human-intensive process of peering through a microscope to assess if a chemical compound's impact on a diseased cell is having a positive impact or advancing it toward being a healthy cell.
Recursion has developed a technique to take a sample cell representing a genetic disorder and test it against the effects of hundreds of thousands of chemical compounds in a process that automates the visual evaluations and data gathering to allow for a lot of testing in a very short period of time.
Gibson said the new infusion of capital will help the company continue to expand its efforts.
“We could not continue to scale up our business and achieve our mission of decoding biology to radically improve lives without this incredible investor syndicate," Gibson said. "With these new resources, we will continue to drive toward a future in which drugs are developed — by people — with a new level of understanding about human biology that was simply not possible before machines.”
The Series C round was led by Baillie Gifford’s flagship investment trust, Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust PLC, with participation by new institutional investors Intermountain Ventures, Regents of the University of Minnesota, Texas Tech University System, select angel investors and numerous previous investors.
Baillie Gifford investment manager Marina Record said her firm, based in Edinburgh, Scotland, was attracted to Recursion's innovative and multidisciplinary approach to the realm of drug discovery.
“We’re very excited to see companies bringing innovation from different fields together to try to radically change healthcare,” Record said in a statement. “Recursion impressed us with its multidisciplinary effort and ambitious vision to improve our understanding of biology and discover new drugs in a way that is faster and cheaper.
"We are proud to support Chris and his team as they continue to build out their technology and take their programs through clinical development.”