Billion-Dollar Babies #3: 9 Unicorn Startups in The Computational Biology Industry

James Dargan

Simulation Models

As per the global computational biology market size report, Computational Biology Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Application (Cellular & Biological Simulation, Drug Discovery & Disease Modelling), By Service, By End Use, And Segment Forecasts, 2019–2026, published in March 2019 by Grand View Research and using a base year as 2018 for its estimate with historical data from the period 2015–2017, the computational biology market was valued at $2.9 billion in 2018 with an expected CAGR of 21.5% over the forecast period.

Not bad, really.

And seeing as the industry — which uses mathematical, theoretical and computer simulation models to study biological systems — will become ever more important as we move forward, there is little doubt that computational biology startups are going to play a greater role in society, too.

So, I guess it’s that time of the week again for another Billion-Dollar Babies piece. The Deep Tech Insider will now briefly discuss nine startups in the computational biology sector whose valuation exceeds a billion dollars, giving them unicorn status.

1.Benchling (Estimated valuation: $4B)

Cloud-based software platform Benchling — named ingeniously after a scientist’s lab bench — was founded by Ashutosh Singhal, Cory Li and Sajith Wickramasekara in 2012 at MIT because they saw a clear need for modern technology and tools to enable their scientific research. Based in San Francisco, California, the biotech startup is radically transforming life sciences R&D by providing biotech and pharmaceutical companies with an all-in-one platform for all of their scientific data.

“Our customers are using both biology and chemistry to push the envelope of what’s possible and they deserve software that is as innovative as they are. We developed our RNA therapeutics solution in partnership with researchers focused on RNA in order to deliver on the specific needs of this hybrid modality. Benchling is committed to expanding our support for all therapeutic modalities, including antibodies, cell and gene therapies, and other emerging drug classes.”

 — Saji Wickramasekara, CEO and co-founder of Benchling

Having raised a total of $311.9 million in funding over seven rounds to date, the latest a $200 million Series E led by Sequoia Capital Global Equities, this brings Benchling’s valuation to $4 billion, according to Forbes.

2.BenevolentAI (Estimated valuation: $2B)

A London-based biotech startup, BenevolentAI is at the forefront of a revolution in drug discovery and development by combining advanced AI and ML with cutting-edge science to decipher complex disease biology and discover optimum therapeutic interventions.

Founded by serial entrepreneur and investor Ken Mulvany in 2012, BenevolentAI’s unique computational R&D platform spans every step of the drug discovery process, powering an in-house pipeline of 25+ drug programmes from early discovery towards clinical phases.

With $292 million raised over three rounds, the last one a $90 million Private Equity round coming in 2019, that brings BenevolentAI’s post-money valuation as of 2020 to some $2 billion overall.

3.CMR Surgical (Estimated valuation: $3B)

CMR Surgical (known as Cambridge Medical Robotics until 2018) is a British medical technology company founded in 2014 by Luke Hares, Mark Slack and Martin Frost. Its next-generation robotic surgery system, called Versius, has been designed to significantly increase the volume and range of supported procedures, making the benefits of robotic minimal access surgery universally accessible and affordable.

CMR Surgical has raised an astonishing $974.7 million in funding over five rounds, its latest funding coming in 2021 from a Series D round. This brings its current post-money valuation to $3 billion in the opinion of SoftBank, Tencent and others.

4.Ginkgo Bioworks (Estimated valuation: $17.5B)

Founded by Jason Kelly, Reshma Shetty, Barry Canton, Austin Che, and Tom Knight in 2009, Ginkgo Bioworks is a biotech company from the United States that specializes in using genetic engineering to produce bacteria with industrial applications for its clients.

The Boston, Massachusetts-based concern, which proclaims itself an “Organism Company”, is one of the world’s largest privately-held biotech companies after it announced in May 2021 plans to go public through a merger with SPAC Soaring Eagle at a $17.5 billion valuation. This is after Ginkgo Bioworks raised a total of $798.7 million in funding over nine rounds since incorporation.

5.HeartFlow (Estimated valuation: $2.8B)

HeartFlow is an AI-fuelled medical technology company that provides new methods of diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease. Founded way back in 2007 by Charles Taylor and Christopher Zarins, the Redwood City, California-based company’s non-invasive personalized cardiac test — which employs AI to construct a 3D model of each patient’s heart — provides unprecedented visualization of coronary arteries, enabling physicians to create more effective treatment plans for their patients.

Last month it was announced HeartFlow plans a $2.4 billion SPAC deal in a merger with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC company, Longview, bringing the combined equity value of the entity to around $2.8 billion, combining the merger’s pro forma enterprise value of $2.4 billion with the estimated $400 million in cash HeartFlow will receive after the transaction closes.

“Healthcare can be a financial drain for both patients and hospitals, but with HeartFlow, physicians can become confident that they are selecting the best and most efficient care pathway for their patients. For example, the HeartFlow Analysis has been shown to reduce the number of unnecessary tests and procedures as well as reduce the overall cost of care by more than $4,000 per patient after one year. To date, over 30,000 patients worldwide have received the HeartFlow Analysis.”

– Charles Taylor, founder and CTO at HeartFlow, Inc, AiThority.Com interview, 2019

Of interest, HeartFlow has raised a total of $577.7 million in funding over ten rounds.

6.Oxford Nanopore Technologies (Estimated valuation: ~$2.48B)

Oxford Nanopore Technologies is a UK-based company developing and selling nanopore sequencing products for the direct, electronic analysis of single molecules. Founded by Gordon Sanghera, Spike Willcocks and Hagan Bayley as a spinoff from the University of Oxford in 2005, the team has managed to develop the world’s first and only nanopore DNA and RNA sequencing platform that offers scalability to portable or ultra-high-throughput formats, real-time data delivery and the ability to elucidate rich biological data.

With an estimated valuation of some £2.48 billion after a total of £994.6 million in funding over 18 rounds, Oxford Nanopore Technologies’ disruptive solutions for biological analyses — helped by the money, of course — can have a positive impact on society now and in the future.

7.Recursion (Estimated valuation: ~$3B)

Recursion is a digital biology company developing a drug discovery platform and pipeline with ML. Founded in 2013 by Blake Borgeson, Chris Gibson and Dean Li, it is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Intent on leveraging this novel technology to create virtuous cycles of learning around datasets to build the next-generation biopharmaceutical company, Recursion Pharmaceuticals’ integrated Recursion Operating System, a closed-loop system combining proprietary in-house data generation and advanced computational tools to generate novel insights to initiate or accelerate therapeutic programs, is building innovations across biology, chemistry, automation, data science, and engineering to industrialize drug discovery to target such diseases as cancer.

The company has raised a total of $465.4 million in funding over 14 rounds, its latest funding from a Series D round.

All this and more has brought about the news of its initial public offering, announced in April of this year. After initially indicating it intended to raise $100 million in its Nasdaq debut, the company is now expecting to bring in about $306 million, with Renaissance Capital, an emerging and frontier markets-focused investment bank, estimating Recursion Pharmaceuticals’ valuation to be $3 billion.

8.Sema4 (Estimated valuation: $3B)

The announcement that Sema4, a patient-centred health intelligence company dedicated to advancing healthcare through data-driven insights, went public at a $3 billion valuation this summer is good news for those startups that utilize ML and AI to analyze databases consisting of patient genomic profiles.

Founded by Eric Schadt in 2017 and based in Stamford, Connecticut, Sema4’s efforts to revolutionize healthcare via the power of ML and AI using its analytics tool called Centrellis™, a platform that can analyze and interpret extensive information about known inherited diseases, including related mutations, should be seen as a powerful reminder how ML and AI can enhance genomic data and possibly save lives.

Sema4 has raised a total of $241 million in funding over two rounds, the latest funding in the summer of 2020 from a Series C round led by BlackRock Innovation Capital.

9.Zymergen (Estimated valuation: ~$3.2B)

Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Zymergen is a biotechnology company that specializes in ML, AI and big data. Founded in 2013 by Jed Dean, Joshua Hoffman and Zach Serber, the secret sauce to Zymergen’s success is its patented biofacturing platform that fuses biology, chemistry and technology to unlock the power of Nature.

By then combining molecular biology, data science, automation, and genomics, it can design products, find the microbes to make them, and scale those products to the world, with a platform that gets smarter as it does it, little wonder — according to Bloomberg at least — Zymergen’s market value has reached approximately $3.2 billion as of April 2021.

As far as funding goes, Zymergen has raised a total of $874.1 million over five rounds, an impressive amount of cash in anyone’s book.

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