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Arzeda Raises $12M for Computational Protein Design

Xconomy Seattle — 

Nine years passed between Arzeda’s emergence from the Baker lab at University of Washington and the $12 million Series A funding round the Seattle computational protein design company announced Thursday.

But Arzeda has grown the old-fashioned way: by bringing in revenue from customers, and plowing profits back into the company. The company has developed custom proteins that form the building blocks of agricultural chemicals and other materials, such as nylon, for the likes of DuPont, Mitsubishi Rayon, and INVISTA.

Meanwhile, researchers in the lab of David Baker, part of the UW’s Institute for Protein Design, continue to push forward the state-of-the-art in computer-assisted creation and analysis of novel protein structures.

Arzeda’s new investment—led by OS Fund with participation from Bioeconomy Capital, Sustainable Conversion Ventures, and return backer WRF Capital—will allow the company to scale up faster. (For some perspective on Arzeda’s age as it raises this round: Through the first half of 2017, the median age of companies raising Series A funding was 3.4 years, according to data from PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association.)

“With this Series A funding, we will be able to expand the throughput capacity of our protein design platform and deploy a robust product development pipeline,” co-founder and CEO Alex Zanghellini says in a news release. “From concept to industrial-scale production, Arzeda’s existing and new partners will be able to leverage protein design to make better, more sustainable chemicals, food and feed ingredients, materials, and even new molecules that are not found in nature.”

Zanghellini co-founded Arzeda with Eric Althoff, Daniela Grabs-Röthlisberger, and Baker in 2008 to commercialize the Rosetta protein design software developed in the lab..

Its one of three spin-out companies from the Institute for Protein Design—PvP Biologics and Cyrus Biotechnology are the other two—and the lab has no shortage of kindling for would-be protein entrepreneurs.

Last week, the lab published research in the journal Science demonstrating a new method for large-scale design and testing of novel proteins. Researchers led by Gabe Rocklin used computational protein design, gene synthesis, and other techniques to analyze more than 15,000 new mini-proteins and other structures, ultimately identifying 2,788 stable structures, “at least 50-fold more proteins than have ever been characterized from natural sources for similar sized proteins,” according to an Institute for Protein Design news release. “Their small size and stability may be advantageous for treating diseases when the drug needs to avoid the immune system and reach the inside of a cell.”