Biotech Startup Raises $5.4M to Develop AI-Designed Protein Machines and Cell Factories

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Biotech startup, Cradle, has raised $5.4 million in seed funding with an AI-enabled design platform that allows for the synthetic building of cell factories to produce proteins.

Cradle, a platform company that helps scientists design and program proteins, has launched from stealth with €5.5 million (US$5.4 million) in seed funding, with a synthetic biology platform that uses artificial intelligence to design protein machines and cell factories.

Cradle’s technology gives scientists the ability to reverse engineer proteins with the desired specific properties. The company has built a working synthetic biology platform that is already in use by a number of early-stage design partners. For example, a biologist may want to change a protein to guarantee its stability at a certain temperature so that the protein will attach to a specific chemical in its vicinity. Cradle’s technology—which entails self-teaching, self-improving generative machine learning models that draw on recent advances in natural language processing—can predict which parts of a protein’s genetic code a biologist will need to alter. This advantage can significantly improve a scientist’s chances of getting the experimental results they want, according to a Nov. 17, 2022 company press release.

The Cradle platform further improves the performance of these large-molecule models on specific tasks within the context of biological research. The company also offers an intuitive and collaborative online platform to make these models accessible to scientists without a machine learning background. This method can conceivably reduce the time and cost of getting a synthetic biology product to market by an order of magnitude, according to the company press release.

“You can think of cells like tiny factories, with proteins as the assembly lines and machines that allow them to make different end-products. With the right tweaks, we can make proteins that will make all manner of new products far more efficiently and with a much lower environmental impact,” said Stef van Grieken, Cradle’s CEO and co-founder, in the press release. “With current methods, a biologist can spend years trying to find the right solution to any particular problem. By harnessing the power of machine learning, our platform can substantially speed up the design, build, and scaling phases when bioengineering proteins, making it possible to create and scale synthetic biology projects much faster and more cost-effectively. Our goal is to reduce the cost and time of getting a bio-based product to market by an order of magnitude so that anyone—even 'two kids in their garage'—can bring a bio-based product to market.”

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The seed funding the company has obtained will be used to accelerate product development, build out the company’s offering, scale its team, and support the onboarding of more design partners. The funding was co-led by Index Ventures and Kindred Capital. Leading angel investors who also participated in the financing round include Feike Sijbesma, honorary chairman and former CEO of Royal DSM, and Emily Leproust, founder of Twist Bioscience.

Source: Cradle