Chinese tech giant Baidu (BIDU) is gearing up investors for a $2 billion fund-raising over three years for a biotech startup, which will use artificial intelligence (AI) technology to develop new drugs and diagnose diseases, Reuters reported.
Baidu would probably not be the controlling investor, according to the talks which are still ongoing, according to the report. The startup under discussion will likely be focused on drug discovery and development, and early tumor diagnosis, while deploying Baidu’s AI technology that can perform complex computing to produce biological innovations.
The startup has not been named yet, but according to the report Baidu started off on the idea as early as six months ago, with founder and Chairman Robin Li taking personal interest in the project.
The move comes as Baidu this year launched its Ribonucleic acid (RNA) prediction algorithms LinearFold and LinearDesign. The tools aim to accelerate the prediction time of a virus’ RNA structure, which is used to understand a virus and develop vaccines.
The tech giant has also signed a strategic partnership with China’s CDC NIVDC to support anti-pandemic efforts and long-term public health. As part of the partnership, Baidu will provide AI and big data technologies, including LinearFold and LinearDesign, for genome analysis and vaccine R&D, while jointly establishing a genome sequencing workstation with the NIVDC’s emergency tech center.
Shares in BIDU are down 5.7% year-to-date, but analysts have a cautiously optimistic outlook on the stock with a Moderate Buy consensus. That’s alongside an average analyst price target of $153.89 (29% upside potential).
“As the No. 1 search engine in China, BIDU benefits from limited search competition” comments Oppenheimer analyst Jason Helfstein. He has a buy rating on BIDU with a $155 price target, but notes that large ecommerce, mobile communication, and content platforms have been aggressively competing for consumer attention, weighing on BIDU growth and margins.
“However, we are now seeing competitive pressure subsiding and management has reduced investments to stabilize margins, making the stock a better value play” the analyst concludes. (See BIDU stock analysis on TipRanks).
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