DeepMind spin-off Isomorphic Labs announces drug discovery scale plans

AI drug discovery startup Isomorphic Labs, which spun out from DeepMind last year, is acquiring talent and a new office as it looks to strike its first business deal

DeepMind chief business officer Colin Murdoch has been tasked with setting up operations at the budding AI firm, and will work closely with DeepMind and Isomorphic Labs CEO Demis Hassabis, reported the Financial Times.

Its announced scaling comes amidst surging interest in the industry, with PitchBook data showing a jump in UK and US funding from $668.5m in 2017, to over $1.6bn this year.

Registered in the UK, the Alphabet subsidiary is in talks with multiple pharmaceutical companies on potential partnerships, with the aim to confirm an agreement in the first half of 2023, as it establishes research and development in the burgeoning drug discovery space.

The work will build on DeepMind’s AlphaFold2 scientific breakthrough, which demonstrates the unprecedented capability to accurately predict all possible protein shapes in the human body.

>See also: How machine learning will revolutionise drug discovery

An initial target for the project, when announced in November 2020, was to find treatments for two of the world’s most fatal illnesses, Chagas disease and Leishmaniasis.

However, “the goal is actually to build an underlying platform which is . . . agnostic to those therapeutic areas,” according to Murdoch.

New appointment Murdoch recently referred to the average time scale for bringing a new treatment to market — around 10 years — and the fact that many projects tend to fail.

He added: “Inspired by the work we did with AlphaFold, we took a deeper look, and basically built conviction that there was a real opportunity here to apply AI to reimagine drugs discovery.”

Speaking on Isomorphic as a startup, Murdoch went on to state that its goal was to produce drugs which we can then partner with pharma to get them out into the clinic and to people with clinical need.”

As well as expanding UK operations, Isomorphic Labs is also set to open an office in Lausanne, Switzerland — an established pharmaceuticals hub home to the likes of Bayer, Novartis and Roche.

While it aims to grow nationally and internationally, the startup recorded a loss of £2.4m for the 11 months to December 2021, according to the UK Companies House.


The future impact of artificial intelligence — Exploring how artificial intelligence is set to impact organisations in the future, gauging the insights of experts in the space.

There is a real demand for AI in healthcare, but preserving privacy is key — Data privacy in healthcare is vital towards long-term AI healthtech success.

Avatar photo

Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.