Baidu and investors in talks to raise $2 billion for biotech start-up

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Chinese tech giant Baidu is in discussions with investors to raise up to $2 billion over three years for a biotech start-up, which may use artificial intelligence technology to detect new medications and diagnose diseases, a individual with direct knowledge of the matter said.

A second person confirmed the start-up plan.

Baidu is not likely to be the dominating investor, the very first person said. Both sources spoke on condition of anonymity, adding they didn’t have more details about the investment as talks were under way.

Baidu’s plans come in a time of increased investment in the healthcare industry since the outbreak of this coronavirus pandemic, with many businesses expanding into online identification options to fill the gaps left by overstretched, overcrowded hospitals.

WeDoctor, backed by Tencent, Alibaba’s health care arm and Ping An Good Doctor have joined the fray to produce programs that offer analysis, prescriptions, appointment bookings, 1-hour drug delivery and delivery.

However, the startup under debate intends to concentrate more on such places as drug discovery and development, and early tumour identification, by mobilising Baidu’s powerful artificial intelligence (AI) technology which can perform complicated computing to produce biological innovations, the sources said.

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The name of the startup hasn’t yet been decided, but Baidu came up with the idea as early as six months ago, one of those sources said, adding Baidu Founder and Chairman Robin Li has been involved in the project.

Baidu open-sourced its Ribonucleic acid (RNA) prediction algorithm LinearFold this past year. The instrument aims to accelerate the prediction time of a virus’ RNA secondary structure, which is crucial to comprehend a virus and develop vaccines.

The medical industry, especially biotech, has seen a flood of cash flow in amid the scramble for a COVID-19 vaccine and authorities seeking to fix their health systems.

The Hang Seng Healthcare Index has surged about 40% over the past five months, outstripping the Hang Seng Index that edged up greater than 6 percent over the time.

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Yingzhi Yang in Beijing and Brenda Goh in Shanghai. Editing by Himani Sarkar.

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