ProteinQure raises $5.2 million CAD for protein-focused drug design platform


Toronto-based biotechnology startup ProteinQure has raised a $5.2 million CAD ($4 million USD) seed round for its computational protein drug design platform.

The round was led by California-based Felicis Ventures, with participation from 8VC, Golden Ventures, iNovia, Global Founders Capital, and angel investor Tom Williams.

“Our platform has the future potential to address the largest and most complicated proteins but also complements the drug discovery tools of today.”

iNovia and Golden have previously backed other biotechnology companies like BenchSci, which reached $27 million in overall funding this year. Golden has also backed Xanadu, which raised a $32 million Series A last month. ProteinQure said its funding will allow the company to add more “interdisciplinary” talent to its team and expand its industry partnerships.

“The time is right for innovation in protein drug discovery,” Lucas Siow, CEO and co-founder of ProteinQure, wrote in a company blog post. “Biologics are taking over the pharmaceutical landscape. “Our platform has the future potential to address the largest and most complicated proteins but also complements the drug discovery tools of today.”

ProteinQure’s platform seeks to automate the computational design of protein-based drugs. It does this by coupling biophysical models with statistical and machine learning approaches. The company uses new advances in computing architectures, from high-performance graphics processing units, tensor processing units, and specialized circuits, to quantum computers.

ProteinQure was founded in 2017 by Siow, CTO Tomas Babej, chief strategy officer Chris Ing, and Mark Fingerhuth, head of R&D. Katrin Reichel, a former research associate at Evotec, also serves as the company’s principal scientist. The startup is a venture of the Creative Destruction Lab, and has partnered with organizations like the University of Guelph, Microsoft, IBM, and Fujitsu for drug discovery and quantum computing purposes. ProteinQure is also integrating experimental data to complement the platform, allowing ProteinQure to learn more about the complex underlying relationships and scale simulations of proteins.

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The team exerts much of its focus on protein-based therapeutics, as Siow said proteins are able to target more diseases with less toxicity and fewer side effects. The challenge with this, he noted, is that protein structures are extremely complex, and the calculations needed to determine amino acid sequences require large computational power.

The company has started applying its platform in initial collaborations with industry partners in the discovery of protein therapeutics. Over the next two years, it plans to work to generate more data on the value of novel approaches to small protein drug discovery. ProteinQure is also growing its team of scientists and engineers in Toronto.

“Leveraging the next set of breakthroughs in computational methods requires working with the best partners,” Siow said. “We look forward to continuing to align ourselves with innovative players in the drug discovery space.”

Image courtesy ProteinQure via Medium

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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