In AI-enabled drug discovery, there might be more than one winner


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Today, a look at Israel from three different angles: drug discovery, AI-enabled cybersecurity threats, and investor reactions to the political crisis. — Anna

From spatial biology to proteomics

Chipmaker Nvidia invested $50 million into biotech startup Recursion, which now plans to “accelerate [the] development of its AI foundation models for biology and chemistry,” according to a press release.

Recursion CTO Ben Mabey said the company aims to build “a definitive foundation model for the drug discovery space.” That’s no easy feat; its CEO Chris Gibson referred to drug discovery as “one of the world’s most difficult challenges.”

However, both Recursion and Nvidia hope AI can help solve this challenge. “Generative AI is a revolutionary tool to discover new medicines and treatments,” Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang wrote in a canned statement.

Recursion is far from the only company working on this; in May, it acquired two companies in the AI-enabled drug discovery space, Cyclica and Valence. But while these three companies are headquartered in North America, I couldn’t help but notice that a number of their competitors are based in Israel.

I asked Lior Handelsman and Renana Ashkenazi, two general partners at Israeli VC firm Grove Ventures, why Israel may be an AI-enabled biotech hotbed. They mentioned some factors I was expecting, such as academic talent and the entrepreneurial spirit that already turned the country into a Startup Nation. But Ashkenazi also noted that the profile of biotech founders is changing.

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