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UK AI Startup InstaDeep Acquired by BioNTech in $562 Million Deal

BioNTech SE, a German-based biotech business, is scheduled to purchase InstaDeep, a Tunis-born and UK-based artificial intelligence (AI) start-up, for up to £562 million ($680 million) in its largest transaction to date.

The German vaccine manufacturer plans to employ InstaDeep’s machine learning to “improve its drug discovery process, including developing personalized treatments tailored to a patient’s cancer,” according to sources.

BioNTech is expected to pay £362 million in cash and an unspecified number of BioNTech shares upfront. According to the company’s announcement, the remaining £200 million is contingent on how InstaDeep performs in the future.

InstaDeep, launched in 2014 by Karim Beguir and Zohra Slim, raised $100 million in Series B funding backed by Alpha Intelligence Capital and CDIB in January. BioNTech was one of the investors who took part, along with Chimera Abu Dhabi, Deutsche Bahn’s DB Digital Ventures, and Google.

The Tunis and London-based enterprise AI start-up has operations in Paris, Tunis, Lagos, Dubai, and Cape Town, and leverages advanced machine learning techniques to bring AI to enterprise applications.

Last year, CEO Beguir stated that InstaDeep employs reinforcement learning, a type of machine learning that aids in the construction of optimization tactics and addresses them concurrently. InstaDeep’s AI technology has been used to assist a huge shipping corporation in efficiently transporting thousands of containers to a railway station or to automate scheduling for 10,000 trains. Other examples include the use of silicon in the design of improved medicines and the routing of components on a printed circuit board.

The company is now collaborating with Deutsche Bahn, Europe’s largest train operator, on a solution to automate railway scheduling.

InstaDeep and BioNTech signed a multi-year strategic agreement in 2019 to launch a collaborative AI innovation centre where they will use the most recent developments in AI and ML to develop novel immunotherapies. This acquisition is the outcome of a long-term cooperation that has seen InstaDeep become the cornerstone of BioNTech’s increasing portfolio of AI and ML activities.

BioNTech plans to leverage computational techniques to develop personalized medications for cancer patients, and its CEO Uğur Şahin stated, “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.”

According to the company’s announcement, InstaDeep’s 240-person team will continue to provide AI and machine learning services to other companies such as Google and Nvidia.

“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. “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.”

The acquisition, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory clearances, is scheduled to close in the first half of 2023.

Following the deal, BioNTech (BNTX) stock is up. Also, Wall Street is optimistic about BioNTech’s prospects, with a Moderate Buy consensus rating. The bioNTech stock has a 35.77% upside potential with an average price objective of $207.78 per share.

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