Therapeutic protein biotechnology using ‘protein barcoding’ in drug development gets new funding – led by Jeff Huber – Endpoints News

Two years after kicking things off with $5.4 million, a George Church spin-off is filling its coffers to fuel its therapeutic protein research and development efforts.

Boston-based biotech Manifold Bio announced the new Series A, led by new VC Triatomic Capital, on Thursday, raising $40 million to advance its internal pipeline and expand the capabilities of its platform. CEO and co-founder Gleb Kuznetsov tells Terminal news that the funding should last nearly 2.5 years for the biotech, depending on how quickly the company spends it.

Jeff Huber

Biotechnology was Triatomic’s first investment, Manifold said in a statement. The VC was founded by none other than Jeff Huber, the former Google executive and former CEO of Grail, a Silicon Valley cancer screening startup, before being acquired by Illumina last year. Huber will join Manifold’s board of directors.

The company got its start when Kuznetsov and another co-founder, Manifold CSO Pierce Ogden, were graduate students in the lab of famed geneticist George Church. According to Kuznetsov, the couple was very interested in proteins and protein design – which led them to talk to different industry players about the overall price and the therapeutic process, and to see if there was a way to integrate more technology into it.

Kuznetsov originally graduated from MIT with a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s degree in computer science and spent a year at Google as a software engineer. Several years later, he returned to MIT for a doctorate in biophysics.

“We didn’t want to just come up with, you know, a new drug, and, you know, go the standard route of picking a drug and developing it,” Kuznetsov said – referring to a mindset he had seen about “You end up dogmatically testing a molecule in an animal, and it sort of makes it or breaks it for a program.” That said, it led to Manifold’s overall goal: to use technology to redefine the process of therapeutic protein discovery.

The biotech first kicked off in 2020 with $5.4 million in seed funding.

As to what exactly Manifold does, Kuznetsov said biotech wants to tackle what he called “bottlenecks” in drug creation, focusing specifically on cancerous tumors. One example was targeting – how to get a drug to start killing cancer cells without harming the rest of the patient. The specificity and complexity of a drug’s target were also key issues at Manifold.

To tackle these bottlenecks, the biotech is using “protein barcoding” to track its drugs.

“From a technical perspective, you want these engineering molecules to navigate this complex mammalian environment and only reach these cancer cells,” the CEO said. After manufacturing the drug components in-house, biotechnology then adds the protein barcodes – tiny bits of protein that track how drugs work and how well therapeutic proteins work. Kuznetsov then gave an example, let’s say a mouse model that has a cancerous tumor.

Once the researchers place the drug candidates into the tumor and analyze the results, they count, using protein barcodes and proprietary technologies, which of the company’s drug models end up being successful.

Beyond that, Manifold investigated combining multiple binders to better target cancer cells that express different combinations of targets. However, the CEO noted that as you add that kind of complexity, the engineering required also increases.

Kuznetsov also mentioned that he worked directly with Church for a decade – starting in the geneticist’s lab in 2012 as a research engineer before starting his PhD in 2014. And because of that relationship, Church met Manifold once a month where the founders “prioritize what we’re trying to do. And then George brings his own take on things,” the CEO noted.

The biotech, currently 15 strong, plans to double in size throughout Series A.

Kuznetsov added that while the biotech is not currently looking to expand its pipeline beyond oncology, it is in talks with a number of other companies for possible partnerships. The biotech also noted that it began work on the Series A earlier this year – and it only took a few months to secure the investments in light of the biotech market’s performance since then. January.

New investors for the series round include Section 32, FPV, Horizons and Tencent. Previous investors who also participated in this round include Fifty Years, Playground Global and FAST by GETTYLAB.

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