BenevolentAI: Developing Drugs With The Help of Technology
Aren’t we all glad that medicine has advanced so much? We sure are thankful for all the medical breakthroughs!
Yet, unfortunately, no matter how hard scientists work to put an end to a terrible disease, there are still a lot of unknowns in the vast world of medicine. Finding a cure or a treatment is the primary goal of many scientists and medical professionals, but it is no easy task.
Wanting to do something to better the process of developing a drug, Ken Mulvany, founded a company for drug development, and went a step further into improving the process. He adopted a rather smart approach and used the help of AI and machine learning. The positive results were astonishing! Ken’s company, BenevolentAI, revolutionized the process of working on treatment development.
Ken merged his love and knowledge of medicine and biology and blended it with cutting-edge technology to devise the ultimate drug developing company.
If you’re interested in learning how Ken developed this ground-breaking approach, keep on reading.
A Young Dreamer
Kennet Patrick Mulvany, known as Ken Mulvany, the founder and an active board director of BenevolentAI, was born in the USA, in 1968. Being a very active child, Ken’s attention was drawn to many different things. His curiosity kept him pushing forward, discovering new things, learning and experiencing as much as he could.
Starting from a young age, Ken developed a keen interest in natural sciences. Young Ken became fascinated by everything going on around him. He truly loved nature and spent a lot of time outside, but being a responsible young person, Ken didn’t neglect his school responsibilities. He was doing well in school, even though good grades were never a big motivation for Ken. He just wanted to learn, and oftentimes beyond what was thought in school.
From all of his interests, he mostly lingered on medicine. Since Ken was highly interested in helping people, as a science, medicine fascinated young Ken. He could easily see himself changing the world with his discoveries and making it a better place for everyone, a healthier place to live in.
A Versatile Man
Getting his education in medicine was an expected path for Ken. But to say that he spent his adolescent years preoccupied with studying and doing nothing else, would be unfair to his character. Keeping to his adventurous spirit from early childhood days, Ken could not be contained inside. Ken’s learning space didn’t have walls- the great outdoors was his knowledge-filled playground.
Ken grew up to be a big environmentalist, showing great love and care for nature and protecting the environment. Mountain climbing was one of Ken’s favorite hobbies, and he spent a lot of time enjoying conquering the heights. Ken’s adventurous spirit led him to take on sailing, as well, but it ended up being more than just a hobby.
What started as a fun activity turned into a serious and professional engagement for Ken. He competed in America's sailing cup in 1992 and became a world sailing champion twice, an achievement that’s definitely worth mentioning.
All of his mountain-wandering and sea-conquering adventures didn’t stop Ken from devoting his time to building himself a career, and a successful one, for that matter. Ken’s restless spirit and creativity became even more prominent when he started working at a hospital. Ken was one of the first employees to convince university officials to provide doctors with computers. Ken strongly believed that having a computer to work on would make doctors’ jobs easier and more efficient,
Ken was convinced that modern technology would be extremely beneficial for the world of medicine, and he even became sort of tech-savvy. Since the fast-paced digitalization of society and medicine was fascinating for young Ken, he drove himself to learn as much as possible, and maybe join his two passions together.
He moved on working for a telecommunications company in London but it lasted for only a year. Being a big philanthropist, he decided to shift his interests in building a company that will work on finding cures for diseases.
Helping The World
In 2004, Ken founded Proximagen, a company working on developing drugs for central nervous system diseases. He felt like dedicating his life to a noble cause was what he was made for. He led the company as the CEO for 10 successful years.
While in Proximagen, the excitement of working in such an important field was often mixed with frustrations and disappointments. Developing a certain drug took a very long time, and it did cost a lot. Only 5-10% of the starting ideas, hypotheses, and projects ended up in success. In the beginning, Ken accepted this as an evitable reality, thinking that there's not much he can do to change it.
But as time passed by, Ken was starting to get ideas about implementing something different in the process. Using AI and machine learning could revolutionize the process of drug development. So, in 2012, Ken sold Proximagen, and a year later, he started a new biotech company called BenevolentAI.
Using AI tools to collect biological data, to integrate all relevant knowledge from many different fields, and to provide the best solutions was a revolutionary idea.
But, as it oftentimes happens, ground-breaking ideas are also big challenges. Bringing his idea to life required a team of experts from many fields integrated into a team and working on the same goal. Ken had to overcome many challenges to achieve what he put his mind to, but all the hard work paid off.
It didn’t take long before positive results started showing. If developing a drug took 8 years or sometimes, even more, BenevolentAI could accomplish it in 18 months. That’s quite a shortcut to drug development. Such a breakthrough in the world of drug manufacturing was a huge reason for celebration! And not just Ken and his team, but the whole medical community was up on their feet, rejoicing!
The revolution and opportunities that Ken had to offer turned everyone’s eyes toward BenevolentAI. In Ken’s previous company, employees had worked with 15 drugs for development, in the period of 10 years. In BenevolentAI, employees had developed 24 drugs in their first 4 years of business. Talk about incredible progress! After only a year in, BenevolentAI made an $800 M deal with an American drug company to sell their Alzeihemer drug. BenevolentAI is focusing on developing drugs for rare diseases, as its primary goal.
Being part of a huge market means being in the same moshpit with some of the big players out there, like XtalPi, Exscientia, BioMap, and others. BenevolentAI has been successful in attaining its place among such fierce competitors.
Recognizing the possibilities that BenevolentAI offers, a lot of investments started coming in shortly after its founding. Only after a year of doing business, in the first round of funding, BenevolentAI raised almost $10 M. This was followed by many more investments in the upcoming period. BenevolentAI managed to raise a total of $292 M from many investors, with Woodford Investment Management and Temasek Holdings being the lead investors.
Proving himself to be a ground-breaking master-mind, Ken got invitations to be a part of several advisory boards. Thanks to his tireless and dedicated work, as well as his brilliant ideas, Ken was invited as a board member of Oxford’s Science Innovations advisory board and the UK’s government advisory panel on artificial intelligence. He was also the chairman of the Cure Parkinsons Trust.
BenevolentAI has received several awards for its work, such as the Innovation Award at 2020 Script Awards and Breakthrough 10 Technologies from MIT Technology Review.
The Future Is AI
Today, BenevolentAI is a company based in London, with an additional office in New York and a research facility in Cambridge. It was founded in 2013 by Ken Mulvany who’s currently on the board of directors. The current CEO of the company is Joanna Shields. BenevolentAI’s brainpower consists of more than 300 scientists and experts in different fields.
Following his ambitions wasn’t an easy task for Ken. Skepticism was probably the highest hurdle Ken had to jump over. As with any revolutionary breakthrough, the general public, as well as the professional one wasn’t too keen on welcoming BenevolentAI with arms wide open.
However, having proven its ingenuity, Ken’s BenevolentAI soon became a much-appraised asset in drug production.
BenevolentAI currently collaborates with two big companies - AstraZeneca and Novartis. It’s also in partnerships with many prestigious universities and institutions in the UK, like the National Neuroscience Institute, Queen Mary University in London, The universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Southampton, among others. The company is estimated to be worth over $2 Bn.
The story of BenevolentAI is surely an inspiration. Founded by philanthropist Ken Mulvany, the story behind BenevolentAI is more about changing the world and helping people than achieving success and making money.
Putting one’s creativity, ideas, and funds into creating something for the greater good is highly respectable. The possibility of cashing in countless numbers of dollars is a motivation for most people, but not for Ken, though. The ability to save countless numbers of lives is what really mattered for Ken.