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Merck launches startup accelerator program

Article ImageStartups developing AI and ML applications to be prioritized

Pharma giant Merck has launched a program to support and invest in early-stage biomedical startups.

Dubbed Merck Digital Sciences Studio (MDSS), the project will provide startups with access to Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing.

The company will also provide startups with opportunities to pilot their technologies in collaboration with Merck scientists.

Startups developing artificial intelligence and machine learning applications will be prioritized, the company announced.

“The biopharmaceutical industry has only just started to harness the tremendous opportunity presented by emerging technological developments in AI and ML,” said Fiona Marshall, senior vice president for discovery, preclinical and translational medicine at Merck Research Laboratories.

“The MDSS will provide a collaborative and entrepreneurial setting where scientists have access to the tools and expertise to fuel important innovations that advance drug discovery and development.”

New approaches and technologies for biotech

Merck has already invested in AI startups before this announcement.

In February, its venture capital arm was among those providing backing to Verana Health during its $150 million series E round. The startup is developing platforms utilizing unstructured data from patient registries to help inform projects like drug R&D.

The MDSS is being created in collaboration with the New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII), Northpond Ventures, McKesson Ventures and Microsoft for Startups.

It will have locations in both Newark, New Jersey and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Merck said it is initially eyeing 12 startups for the MDSS, split equally between the two venues.

“As digital transformation continues to redefine what’s possible in healthcare, startups are at the forefront of delivering new approaches and technologies to the industry,” said Sally Frank, global lead for health and life sciences at Microsoft for Startups.

“Merck Digital Sciences Studio provides an onramp for startup founders to quickly bring their ideas to market with the strength of a global healthcare leader like Merck behind them.”

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