Biotech star BenevolentAI floats at £ 1.3bn valuation in Europe’s largest SPAC buyout

(Benevolent AI)

British biotech star BenevolentAI today pledged to stay rooted in the UK after it was made public with a valuation of € 1.5 billion (£ 1.3 billion) in Amsterdam via the largest SPAC merger in the healthcare sector in Europe.

The company, which uses artificial intelligence to discover and develop new treatments for complex diseases, is expected to join Euronext after a reverse takeover by Odyssey, a blank check company founded by the Zaoui brothers.

The deal will raise up to € 390m (£ 332m), with Benevolent receiving Odyssey’s € 300m war chest alongside € 135m from existing backers such as Temasek from Singapore.

AstraZeneca, which works with the firm to find new treatments for chronic kidney disease, enters the capital.

The money will be used to accelerate research, develop its machine learning systems and expand the drug pipeline.

He is committed to remaining UK based as he expands his team and operations here and in the US.

CEO Baroness Joanna Shields, a former head of Google and Facebook who worked as a government adviser to David Cameron, said: Change the drugs.

Founded by serial entrepreneur Ken Mulvany in 2013, Benevolent employs over 300 people with UK researchers and executives spread between a science campus in Cambridge and a head office in Fitzrovia, London.

His research alerted US pharmaceutical group Eli Lilly to the potential of baricitinib, an arthritis drug, in the treatment of Covid-19, which is now approved for emergency use in the United States.

The company recorded an after-tax loss of £ 55million in 2020 after investing nearly £ 75million in research while generating revenue of £ 7million.

It was one of the main holdings in the Patient Capital Trust and Equity Income Fund of fallen stock picking star Neil Woodford.

After their dramatic collapse in 2019, the holdings were inherited by the administrators of the Schroders UK Public Private (SUPP) trust – of which it comprises 5% – and Link Fund Solutions.

Link owns a stake valued at £ 36million in his latest financial statement. He said: “The value will be investigated as events unfold.”

Brothers Michael and Yoel Zaoui – who built their reputation as negotiators during their careers at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs – launched Odyssey on Euronext in June and have spent the last six months searching for a target in the technology sector. health.

Michael Zaoui, President of Odyssey, said: “We created Odyssey with the aim of supporting and bringing to European capital markets promising growth European companies in the healthcare and / or technology sectors.

“BenevolentAI is positioned at the convergence of these two industries, is a recognized leader in the emerging field of AI-based drug discovery and is led by a highly experienced management team.

“We are convinced that BenevolentAI offers superior growth prospects in an industry which is itself at an inflection point. We view our merger with BenevolentAI as a compelling investment opportunity and are confident that this transaction will create value for all of our shareholders. “

Olivier Brandicourt, the former CEO of the French vaccine specialist Sanofi and Jean Raby, the former investment director of Natixis, will join the board of directors following the transaction.

Goldman Sachs acted as advisor to Benevolent with JP Morgan working for Odyssey.

Mary I. Bruner