German-based biotech company BioNTech acquires Tunisian AI startup InstaDeep to boost its drug discovery process


 BioNTech SE ,a  German-based biotech company that manufactures vaccines has  acquired InstaDeep, a Tunisian  and U.K.-based artificial intelligence startup, for  £562 million (~$680 million) .

 InstaDeep,an  AI startup which uses advanced machine learning techniques to bring AI to applications within an enterprise environment, has offices in Paris, Tunis, Lagos, Dubai and Cape Town.It was founded by Karim Beguir and Zohra Slim in 2014, the  startup raised $100 million in Series B financing led by Alpha Intelligence Capital and CDIB  , BioNTech as well as  Chimera Abu Dhabi, Deutsche Bahn’s DB Digital Ventures and Google.

According  to CEO  Karim  Beguir,InstaDeep uses reinforcement learning, a kind of machine learning that helps design optimization strategies and tackles them simultaneously. InstaDeep AI tech  can be used in  places such as  large shipping company to efficiently transport thousands of containers to a railway station or automate scheduling for 10,000 trains. Other examples are the design of advanced therapeutics with silicon and routing components on a printed circuit board.

InstaDeep is now working on a moonshot product to automate railway scheduling with Deutsche Bahn, the largest rail operator in Europe. 

As   part of the deal,BioNTech will pay £362 million ,both  cash and an undisclosed amount of BioNTech shares ,upfront. The remaining £200 million is dependent on how InstaDeep performs in the future, according to the company’s statement.

The company intends to use InstaDeep’s machine learning to “improve its drug discovery process, including developing personalised treatments tailored to a patient’s cancer.”

In 2019, InstaDeep entered  a multi-year strategic collaboration with BioNTech to launch a joint AI innovation lab where they would deploy the latest advances in AI and ML to develop novel immunotherapies.

The acquisition is as a result of this long-term partnership that has seen InstaDeep become the centerpiece of a growing portfolio of initiatives around AI and ML at BioNTech.

BioNTech intends to use computational solutions to create personalised drugs for cancer patients and according to its CEO Uğur Şahin, “The acquisition of InstaDeep allows us to incorporate the rapidly evolving AI capabilities of the digital world into our technologies, research, drug discovery, manufacturing and deployment processes. Our aim is to make BioNTech a technology company where AI is seamlessly integrated into all aspects of our work.”

InstaDeep’s 240-man team will continue to provide its AI and machine learning services to other companies, including Google and Nvidia, per the company’s statement.

“AI is progressing exponentially and our mission at InstaDeep has always been to make sure it benefits everyone. We are very excited to join forces and become one team with BioNTech, with whom we share the same culture of deep tech innovation and focus on positive human impact,” said Beguir on the acquisition. “Together, we envision building a world leader that combines biopharmaceutical research and AI with the aim to design next-generation immunotherapies that enhance medical care — thus, helping fight cancer and other diseases.”

According  to company,the transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2023, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals.