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Israeli startup Protai gets $12M to advance drug discovery with AI


Protai, a Tel Aviv-based proteomics, and AI-powered drug discovery startup, has secured $12 million in a Seed round extension, bringing the total amount to $20 million. 

The capital came from existing investors – Israel-based Grove Ventures and Pitango Healthcare and was joined by Copenhagen-based Maj Invest Equity Fund. 

Protai joins the list of companies, including Iktos, Insilico Medicine, iLoF, among others who are advancing drug discovery with the help of AI. 

How will the funding be used?

Protai will use the funds to build its oncology drug discovery pipeline, expand data acquisition, as well as increase its discovery activities via pharma partnerships.

To help navigate these efforts, the company has added Dr. Sharon Shacham, a serial biotech entrepreneur and Founder of Karyopharm Therapeutics, to Protai’s Board of Directors. 

In addition, Protai is supported by leading oncology experts: 

  • Prof. Giulio Draetta, Chief Scientific Officer at MD Anderson and former Pharma executive
  • Prof. Bradley J. Monk, Director of Gynecologic Oncology at the St. Joseph’s Hospital and Director of GOG Partners
  • Prof. Funda Meric-Bernstam, Chair of the Department of Investigational Cancer Therapeutics at MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Dr. Jurgen Moll, former Head of Molecular Oncology, Sanofi Vitry

“We are excited to announce this funding that supports our mission to enhance the drug development pathway from discovery through commercialization,” said Eran Seger, CEO and co-founder of Protai. “I am extremely proud of our talented team and the achievements we have made to date. We look forward to scaling our organisation and its important work towards revolutionising the drug development landscape.”

According to Protai, Genetic biomarkers are useful in only about 15% of tumors, which limits their applicability. 

However, protein-level biomarkers can identify patient groups that cannot be detected through genomic methods because they directly measure proteins, their interactions, and their functions.

Analyses protein-level data

Founded by Eran Seger and Kirill Pevzner, Protai has developed an AI-based platform for proteomics that comprehensively analyses protein-level data to unlock its potential. 

The platform can map the progress of the disease at the protein level, enabling better predictions of drug response for patients and the identification of previously undiscovered drug targets that were not found using genomic approaches. 

These discoveries have the potential to significantly speed up drug discovery and clinical development, reducing the time and costs of research and development.

Since its initial funding last year, Protai has opened laboratories at its Israel R&D center for data acquisition, biological validation, and drug discovery activities, and recruited an experienced drug discovery team.

Protai also established collaborations with several leading hospitals and now has access to over 100k well-defined banked samples for its comprehensive tumor mapping process, focused on gyno-oncology and lung cancer indications.

“Our investment in Protai highlights Maj Invest’s increasing investment in the Israeli tech ecosystem,” said Jeppe Christian, CEO of Maj Invest Equity Fund. “We are excited to partner with this exceptional team, and we are positive that Protai will make a huge leap forward in how patients are treated and cured.”

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