Artificial intelligence already is making strides in the development of new drugs, and now the pesticide industry wants in on the action. Switzerland's Syngenta has teamed up with Insilico Medicine to use its deep-learning tools to produce sustainable weedkillers. As well as taking on some of the early-stage work traditionally conducted in a lab, AI could design molecules used in crop-protection tools that are more sustainable and environmentally friendly, the companies said last week. AI is among new methods emerging as environmental and health concerns spur a quest for sustainable alternatives to traditional pesticides used by farmers. Demand also is being supported by regulatory pressures and lawsuits, most notably Bayer's $11 billion settlement deal over claims its long-used glyphosate herbicide causes cancer.
Medopad, the UK startup that has been working with Tencent to develop AI-based methods for building and tracking "digital" biomarkers -- measurable indicators of the progression of illnesses and diseases that are picked up not with blood samples or in-doctor visits but using apps and wearables, has announced another round of funding to expand the scope of its developments. It has picked up $25 million led by pharmaceuticals giant Bayer, which will be working together with Medopad to build digital biomarkers and therapeutics related to heart health. Medopad said it is also working on separate biomarkers related to Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Diabetes. The Series B is being made at a post-money valuation of between $200 million and $300 million. In addition to Bayer, Hong Kong firm NWS Holdings and Chicago VC Healthbox also participated.