The deal will enable the UK-based BenevolentAI to go public with a listing on Euronext Amsterdam


BenevolentAI is a clinical-stage AI drug discovery company based in London. (Credit: fernando zhiminaicela from Pixabay)

BenevolentAI, a clinical-stage artificial intelligence (AI) drug discovery company, has agreed to merge with blank cheque company Odyssey Acquisition, in a deal that values the former at €1.1bn.

The combined company, post-merger, is valued up to €1.5bn.

Odyssey Acquisition is a European special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). Through the deal, the UK-based BenevolentAI will be able to go public with a listing on Euronext Amsterdam.

Odyssey Acquisition chairman Michael Zaoui said: “We established Odyssey with the objective of supporting and bringing to the European capital markets promising European growth companies in the healthcare and/or technology sectors.

“BenevolentAI is positioned at the convergence of these two sectors, is a proven leader in the emerging area of AI-driven drug discovery, and is led by a very experienced management team.”

Established in 2013, BenevolentAI has developed an AI-based drug discovery platform, which in combination with the scientific expertise of nearly 300 scientists and technologists and full wet-lab capabilities, facilitates the delivery of novel drug candidates. The produced drug candidates are claimed to have higher chances of clinical success than those developed using conventional methods.

The computational research and development (R&D) platform of the company is designed to capture the interconnectivity of all relevant available data as well as scientific literature.

Furthermore, the company’s exploratory and predictive AI tools are said to enable scientists to examine the data and disease networks within the graph, put biological questions, surface novel insights, and triage hypotheses.

BenevolentAI CEO Joanna Shields said: “Our AI platform empowers scientists to leverage biomedical and experimental data at scale to understand the underlying causes of disease and develop more effective medicines, faster.

“Every drug in our pipeline of 20+ programmes has been generated by the Benevolent Platform which has a proven track record of scientifically validated discoveries, both in-house and in partnership with leading pharmaceutical companies.

“The combination with Odyssey will allow us to scale our vision and ambition of uniting purposeful technology and cutting-edge science to discover life-changing medicines.”

Shields will continue to lead the company after the merger.

The deal will give the AI drug discovery company proceeds of up to €390m. This includes €300m of gross cash held by Odyssey Acquisition in escrow and €135m of fully-committed private investment in public equity (PIPE).

The PIPE investors include Temasek, AstraZeneca, Ally Bridge Group, and Invus among others.

BenevolentAI is expected to use the proceeds for expediting its development, scale-up its clinical pipeline, continue making investments in its technology, strengthen its AI-enabled drug discovery capabilities, and provide multiple value inflection points in the near future.

The deal, which is subject to Odyssey Acquisition’s shareholders’ approval, is anticipated to close in Q1 2022.