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Synthetic biology startup Asimov snaps $200M to address major flaw in drug manufacturing

US-based synthetic biology startup, Asimov which develops tools to design living systems, snapped $200 million in new funding. The round follows a $25 million Series A led by Horizons Ventures (invested in Normative, wefox and Atomo Coffee), who also participated in the Series B round.

Scaleup and growth plans

The financing is split into a $175 million Series B led by Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments) alongside participation from Fidelity Management & Research Company, KDT, Casdin Capital, Pillar, and Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), who led Asimov’s seed round.

In addition, Paul McCracken, Ph.D., Managing Director in Growth Equity at CPP Investments, joined Asimov’s board of directors.

Asimov plans to use the funds to scale its tools and services business in biologics, advanced cell/gene therapies, and RNA. Also, it will allow Asimov to focus on expanding its R&D to tackle new modalities, and growing its 70-person.

Alec Nielsen, co-founder and CEO of Asimov said “But the technology to design and manufacture these drugs hasn’t kept up. At Asimov we’re integrating synthetic biology and computer-aided design to address the challenges of high manufacturing costs, drug quality, and scalability. We’re energised to partner with such an acclaimed set of investors that shares our vision.”

“There is an accelerating demand for new tools and services to develop and manufacture these novel products, many of which are highly complex. This has created compelling opportunities, such as this investment in Asimov, that are a strong fit for our Innovations in Health Care strategy,” said Leon Pedersen, Managing Director and Head of Growth Equity at CPP Investments.

‍Jorge Conde, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz and board member at Asimov said, “While biotech R&D often relies on cycles of trial-and-error, Asimov is building a platform to design, simulate, and optimise genetic systems more reliably. This approach to programming living cells has the potential to address large unmet needs in the therapeutics space and bring us the next generation of programmable medicines.”

‍Addresses flaw in drug manufacturing

The manufacturing process is a huge bottleneck, especially when using mammalian cells. It is tough to produce antibodies or RNA in sufficient quantities and purities. This is where Asimov comes to the picture as it applies the principles of engineering, and a neat toolkit that combines gene-edited mammalian cell lines with a Kernel, a computer-aided design platform.

Asimov provides customers with specialised cell lines that can be customised with biological parts and access to the software and instructions on how to use it.

Asimov is a spin-out of Chris Voigt’s lab at MIT, co-founded by bioengineers from MIT and Boston University – Nielsen along with Voigt, Raja Srinivas, and Doug Densmore of Boston University in 2017. It provides customers with specialised cell lines that can be customised with these biological parts, and access to the software and instructions on how to use it.

It partners with over 25 companies spanning top-10 pharmas, biotechs, and contract development and manufacturing organisations. The company provides an integrated suite of technologies to its partners, including proprietary cell lines, software for genetic design, and a growing catalogue of engineered genetic systems for different applications.

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