Arzeda does work that sounds out of this world — or maybe straight out of science fiction. The company uses fermentation, the same process that gives us beer, to invent completely new proteins and materials, and it just raised another $3.2 million to support that work.
The funding is a follow-on to the company’s Series A round, which first raked in $12 million in July. Arzeda has now raised $15.2 million total. The new funds come from Universal Materials Incubator and Casdin Capital, which join OS Fund, Bioeconomy Capital, Sustainable Conversion Ventures and WRF Capital as investors in the company.
The new funds will help Arzeda expand its protein design platform and product development pipeline. The company uses advanced protein modeling tech to design molecules that will fit a niche in a certain industry, everything from ultra strong fabric to chemicals that help plants grow.
“We believe that the tight integration of computational protein design and scale-up capabilities will result in a cascade of synthetic biology innovation, creating superior performance and financial returns for any market that depends on chemical production,” said Arzeda CEO Dr. Alex Zanghellini in a press release. “The list of markets that will be touched by these innovations is long, from agriculture and advanced materials, to specialty chemicals and pharmaceuticals.”
Arzeda’s process starts with a client need — for example, a protein to help a crop grow faster. Then the company uses its software platform to run trillions of possible molecules and come up with a handful of ones that may work for the job.
Because proteins are so complex, they can’t just be cooked up in a beaker. Instead, Arzeda codes genetic material that instructs a cell on how to make the protein.
Those genetic instructions are then inserted into a batch of yeast or other small organisms which make the protein using the fermentation process, the same one that results in a tasty IPA or lager. The company then tests the different proteins in its lab and finds the right one for the job.
Arzeda was founded in 2008 by Zanghellini along with Drs. Eric Althoff, Daniela Grabs and David Baker based on work by the University of Washington’s Institute for Protein Design, which Baker directs. He also serves on the company’s board of scientific advisors, while the other three co-founders are all executives at the company.