Tunisia-founded AI startup InstaDeep acquired in $684m deal

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Tunisia-founded enterprise artificial intelligence (AI) startup InstaDeep has been acquired by Nasdaq-listed German biotech company BioNTech SE in a deal that could eventually be worth GBP562 million (US$684m) to its shareholders.

Founded in Tunisia in 2014 but now headquartered in London having gone global, InstaDeep delivers AI products and solutions for the enterprise sector, and also has offices in Paris, Tunis, Lagos, Cape Town and Dubai.

Powered by high-performance computing and outstanding research and development breakthroughs, InstaDeep utilises deep reinforcement learning and other advanced machine learning techniques to create AI systems that can optimise decision-making processes in real-life industrial environments.

Disrupt Africa reported a year ago the startup had raised a US$100 million Series B funding round, and it has now been acquired by BioNTech, an equity investor in InstaDeep’s Series B. The transaction includes a total upfront consideration of approximately GBP362 million (US$440 million) in cash and BioNTech shares to acquire 100 per cent of the remaining InstaDeep shares, excluding the shares already owned by BioNTech. 

In addition, InstaDeep shareholders will be eligible to receive additional performance-based future milestone payments up to approximately GBP200 million (US$243 million.

The acquisition supports BioNTech’s strategy to build world-leading capabilities in AI-driven drug discovery and development of next-generation immunotherapies and vaccines to address diseases with high unmet medical need. The transaction will combine two organisations with a common culture and is expected to add approximately 240 highly skilled professionals to BioNTech’s workforce, including teams in AI, ML, bioengineering, data science, and software development. 

Through the acquisition, BioNTech will grow its network of global research collaborators in the field and expand its footprint in key talent hubs across the United States, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. 

“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 Karim Beguir, CEO and co-founder of InstaDeep. “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 transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2023, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals. Upon closing, InstaDeep will operate as a UK-based global subsidiary of BioNTech, and is expected to become the centerpiece of a growing portfolio of initiatives around AI and ML at BioNTech.

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