GERMANY — BioNTech SE, a German-based immunotherapy company, has agreed to acquire British artificial intelligence (AI) startup InstaDeep for up to 562 million pounds (US$682 million) to speed up its biotech research and manufacturing capabilities.

The transaction is one of several announced this week as the industry gathers in San Francisco for the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference.

Under the German vaccine maker’s largest takeover deal to date, BioNTech is to pay 362 million pounds (US$ 439.6 million) upfront, in a mix of cash and an unspecified number of BioNTech shares, and up to 200 million pounds (US$243 million) contingent on InstaDeep’s future performance.

BioNTech is well funded to advance its work on new cancer immunotherapies and other vaccines, with estimated COVID-19 vaccine revenues of up to 17 billion euros (US$18.2 billion) in 2022 alone, and AI will play a growing role.

InstaDeep, founded by Karim Beguir and Zohra Slim in 2014, has emerged as one of the UK’s most promising tech firms, securing significant funding for its Series A and Series B rounds, including a US$100 million investment in January 2022 from Google and BioNTech.

Other participating investors also included Chimera Abu Dhabi, Deutsche Bahn’s DB Digital Ventures.

The AI tools developed by InstaDeep have been used in the biotech, logistics, and electronic manufacturing industries.

The African-founded, London-based company has grown into a major provider of business automation tools.

Following previous investments, the German biotech firm has completed the acquisition of InstaDeep in order to fully integrate its AI technology into drug discovery and medical development.

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,” said BioNTech co-founder and CEO, Prof. Ugur Sahin.

Our aim is to make BioNTech a technology company where AI is seamlessly integrated into all aspects of our work.”

BioNTech stated that it was already involved in dozens of joint projects with InstaDeep, including efforts announced last year to quickly determine whether a new coronavirus variant is of concern.

The acquisition will see 240 employees join the BioNTech workforce across its AI, machine learning, bioengineering, data science, and software development departments.

UK and BioNTech sign personalized cancer drug pact

Meanwhile, the UK government has entered into a multiyear collaboration with BioNTech SE to treat up to 10,000 cancer patients with personalized therapies by 2030 that could be worth up to US$750 million.

Under the agreement, the parties plan to utilize UK’s clinical trial network, genomics, and health data assets, aiming to enroll the first cancer patient in the second half of 2023. People who will be treated as part of clinical trials are included in the 10,000-patient target.

According to the company, the alliance will significantly increase BioNTech’s cancer patient numbers. So far, less than 1,000 people have been treated with personalized therapies, which frequently require multiple doses.

BioNTech, which collaborated with Pfizer to develop a COVID vaccine, announced plans to open a research and development center in Cambridge with more than 70 scientists.

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