In Washington, Arzeda raised $12 million in a Series A round of funding, moving it forward on scaling up of their advanced protein design technology that is used for production of a range of chemicals and materials. The funding came from OS Fund, Bioeconomy Capital, Sustainable Conversion Ventures, and WRF Capital and will help beef up staff to expand business development, protein design and development operations teams and fermentation and downstream process engineers.
They also plan to streamline things a bit by integrating their computational and data science teams with laboratory operations. Plans are in place to also streamline the process they use to design proteins and enzymes and confirm their functionality in commercial production settings. This is great news for Arzeda’s existing customers like big names DuPont, Mitsubishi Rayon, and INVISTA, as well as new customers looking for Arzeda’s innovations to help them with their products that range from paint and nylons to sweeteners and food ingredients.
If you missed the Digest’s Multi-Slide Guide or Arzeda’s ABLC presentation in March in Washington, DC and aren’t familiar with them, the short of it is that Arzeda develops and produces proteins which are the building blocks of life. So you could say they are creating life in a way and for extraterrestrial believers, stop looking for UFOs and look in the lab as Arzeda is also creating proteins not found in nature, so you could also say they are creating artificial life.
How do they do this? According to their press release, Arzeda’s proprietary technology and synthetic biology platform leverages new advances in protein design and computing to develop the complex genetic instructions required to build highly-customized proteins and enzymes. These instructions are then inserted into the DNA of yeast or similar microorganisms, transforming them into “cell factories” that harness the process of fermentation to produce a wide range of industrial molecules. Capitalizing on ever-expanding cloud computing power, the platform can pick successful protein sequence combinations from trillions of possibilities, which are then validated and optimized in Arzeda’s laboratory.
Sounds pretty innovative and investors aren’t the only ones taking notice.
As reported in the Digest in November 2016, Arzeda reached a major technical milestone with Amyris as a part of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Technology Investment Agreement. Arzeda’s high-throughput, automated pipeline for protein engineering and pathway discovery was validated by the production of two keystone molecules which was further optimized by Amyris. These two molecules are industrially important as dyes, food ingredients and pharmaceutical intermediates, but their current manufacture involves the use of highly toxic and carcinogenic substances such as cyanide and benzene, which presents occupational health hazards, is energy-intensive and leads to environmental damage through the discharge of toxic effluents. With the Arzeda designed synthetic organism, production by fermentation could result in a more sustainable, non-toxic and safer process. Moreover, further derivatization could yield new, healthier nutritional food ingredients with improved performance.
Under this DARPA-funded TIA, led by Amyris, Arzeda has been developing a high-throughput automated pipeline for the computational design of novel enzymes and pathways for the production of novel molecules in a variety of fermentation hosts. Amyris leverages its world-class high-throughput strain construction and optimization to validate and further optimize the resulting synthetic organisms to industrially relevant levels. The next steps in the project were to produce more molecules for testing and to scale the technology to produce commercial quantities of molecules that are shown to have industrial application.
Back in November 2016, Joel Cherry, President of R&D at Amyris said “These two keystone molecules resulting from Arzeda designs have the potential to be a step change for small molecule production. Their successful commercial production would allow a safer and lower cost alternative to current chemical syntheses, and further demonstrate that biology is a preferred alternative to existing industrial chemistry.”
This latest round of $12 million in funding will come in handy to move projects like this forward.
The Amyris deal isn’t the only thing going for Arzeda. As we reported in March 2016, Zymergen and Arzeda signed a multi-year agreement to develop strains and processes to manufacture novel, high utility molecules and materials utilizing Arzeda’s pathway and enzyme design and Zymergen’s strain construction capabilities.
“The development of new materials was a major driver of technological development over the course of the 20th century. Biology has the potential to drive materials breakthroughs in the 21st century, and Arzeda’s technology can help identify new avenues for unlocking this potential,” said Zach Serber, Zymergen’s CSO. “We look forward to the results of the collaboration.”
“We have only started to scratch the surface of what synthetic biology can deliver in terms of new molecules and materials. Arzeda’s computational design technology opens up the ability to produce molecules with applications in transportation, medicine, and communications that are not currently biosynthetized,” said Arzeda CEO Alexandre Zanghellini. “Uniting with Zymergen’s innovative strain design platform has the potential to help make our designs a reality. “Zymergen’s scientists are constantly pushing the envelope in synthetic biology, and we are thrilled to be working with their team.”
Arzeda’s Archytas industrial protein design software and Scylax computational pathway design tool will be used to identify and design new enzymatic pathways capable of producing molecules that are impossible to synthesize via conventional chemistry. These pathway designs will be implemented and tested by Zymergen’s high-throughput strain development and testing platform.
It’s clear Arzeda has a bright future with some key partnerships in place and now with this latest round of funding, it’s just a matter of time before they change proteins and life as we know it. Whether we see their proteins in stain-resistant paint that parents of young children will absolutely love, or new sweeteners that maybe don’t cause as many cavities, or some new protein or life building block that creates something we haven’t yet imagined, Arzeda is making a name for itself as a company of the future.