British artificial intelligence group BenevolentAI has signed an exclusive license with Johnson & Johnson group Janssen, picking up rights to a series of its novel clinical stage drug candidates.

Under the deal, BenevolentAI has acquired a license to a select number of candidates and their extensive related portfolio of patents, after concluding that there is "strong promise" to develop them into new medicines for hard to treat diseases using its artificial intelligence technology.

The UK group says the deal will enable it to accelerate its development pipeline and use its unique artificial intelligence technology "to explore and provide a rich source of clinical data".

"The agreement adds further depth to our clinical and preclinical development pipeline and marks a very exciting time for the role of artificial intelligence to benefit scientific discovery and humanity," said Jackie Hunter, board director of BenevolentAI and chief executive of BenevolentAI Bio.

The firm intends to begin late stage Phase IIb clinical trials in mid 2017.

Financial terms of the deal - which was facilitated by the Johnson & Johnson Innovation Centre in London - weren't disclosed.