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Ex-Standford president’s Xaira Therapeutics secures $1B for AI drug discovery

Xaira Therapeutics
Picture credits: Xaira Therapeutics

Generative AI has taken the tech world by storm. This technology plays a major role in biotech and revolutionises drug discovery. This sector is gaining increased traction from investors and we have seen startups such as Causaly and Protai raise funding. 

Now, an AI drug discovery company Xaira Therapeutics headquartered in San Francisco, has launched with over $1 billion in funding. The round was co-led by Arch Venture Partners and Foresite Labs. Other investors that joined this investment round are F-Prime, NEA, Sequoia Capital, Lux Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners (invested in Scrut Automation and Aqua Security), Menlo Ventures, Two Sigma Ventures, the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy (PICI), Byers Capital, Rsquared, and SV Angel.

Experienced team behind Xaira

Xaira is led by CEO Marc Tessier-Lavigne, the former Genentech chief scientific officer, the Denali Therapeutics co-founder, and ex-Stanford University president. It was co-founded by Dr. David Baker, Professor of Biochemistry and Director of the Institute for Protein Design at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

The company now employs a group of researchers who developed the leading models for protein and antibody design, RFdiffusion and RFantibody, while in Dr. Baker’s lab. Xaira’s broader team will advance these models and develop new methods that can connect the world of biological targets and engineered molecules to the human experience of disease.

AI drug discovery platform 

The company is building a platform for drug discovery and development that will advance multiple drug programs and unlock biological understanding to inform future discovery. It is touted to be capable of generating, integrating, and learning from vast multidimensional data sets that characterises disease-relevant biology at all scales, from molecules to people. 

The platform is also being built to transform every laboratory and clinical experiment into a vehicle for rich data generation. The product development process itself fuels the development of improved AI models and biological foundation models.

“We have reached the point where AI finally allows us to see biology in new ways, and translate those discoveries to better treatments for disease,” said Robert Nelsen, Managing Director and Co-Founder of ARCH Venture Partners. “This creates an enormous opportunity for us to rethink drug discovery entirely. For this reason, Xaira is the largest initial funding commitment in ARCH history.”

“Driven by growing data sets and new methods, there has been accelerating progress in artificial intelligence and its applications to medicine, biology, and chemistry, including seminal work from David Baker’s lab at the Institute for Protein Design,” said Dr. Vikram Bajaj, CEO of Foresite Labs and Managing Director of Foresite Capital. “In starting Xaira, we have brought together incredible multidisciplinary talent and capabilities at the right time to reimagine our entire approach, from drug discovery to clinical development.”

“In my previous roles, I witnessed an earlier generation of technologies fundamentally change drug discovery, delivering new medicines that alleviate the burden of disease for many patients,” said Dr. Marc Tessier-Lavigne, CEO. “Now, witnessing how AI is impacting other industries and the considerable progress in applications of AI in biology, I believe we are poised for a revolution. Xaira is in a strong position to both advance fundamental AI research and translate these advances into transformative new medicines, and I am excited to have the opportunity to lead the team.”

The company’s board comprises eminent scientists and seasoned company builders, as well as executives from successful drug development enterprises and technology companies. “The board looks forward to supporting the team in building a transformative company under the visionary leadership of Marc Tessier-Lavigne,” said director Scott Gottlieb, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner and current NEA partner. “Xaira promises to be a magnet for the best talent in AI and drug development,” added director Kaye Foster, Senior Advisor, The Boston Consulting Group and former SVP, Global Human Resources, Onyx Pharmaceuticals.

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