Drug developer BenevolentAI lines up investment from Eli Lilly

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BenevolentAI, the British-based technology company which uses artificial intelligence to aid the drug discovery process, is close to securing a major strategic investment from Eli Lilly, the global pharmaceutical giant.

Sky News has learnt that Eli Lilly is likely to participate in a new fundraising being finalised by BenevolentAI alongside a number of new and existing investors.

Sources said the funding round could secure in the region of $75m of new capital for the company.

The valuation at which the new equity would be injected was unclear on Friday.

BenevolentAI is run by Baroness Shields, the former Facebook executive, whose most recent role was as minister for internet safety and security in David Cameron's administration.

Last month, the company announced that a drug it had discovered had secured approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be used on hospitalised COVID-19 patients who required supplemental oxygen or invasive mechanical ventilation.

The drug, baricitinib, is now owned and marketed by Eli Lilly.

BenevolentAI last raised funding in September last year, when it brought the Singaporean state-owned investor Temasek Holdings on board as an investor.

A BenevolentAI spokesperson said on Friday: "We are proud of our work to find a treatment for COVID-19.

"The FDA emergency use approval of baricitinib on November 19, solidified our position as a world-leading AI platform for biological exploration and prediction and secured a new partnership with Eli Lilly."

Sources said the company's fundraising - on which Raine, the merchant bank, is advising - was likely to be announced early in the new year.