Daily Newsletter

13 March 2024

Daily Newsletter

13 March 2024

Tierra raises $11.4 in Series A round for predictive AI protein maker

The US company is part of a burgeoning AI market in early-stage drug development.

Robert Barrie March 12 2024

Tierra Biosciences has debuted on the pharma AI stage with the closing of an $11.4m Series A round for its protein engineering platform.  

The US-based company said that the funding will help advance and expand the reach of its platform that uses predictive AI to optimally manufacture proteins, according to a 12 March press release.

The investment was led by Material Impact, a US venture capital firm that recently announced a $352m fund for companies developing deep technology.  

Unlike many deep tech companies utilising generative AI (genAI) for drug discovery, Tierra has gone down the predictive AI route. While genAI generates content based on user prompts, predictive AI uses large datasets to recognise patterns and predict outcomes. Tierra combines language models with its cell-free platforms to make proteins that, according to the company, go “beyond the confines of nature”.

Tierra says it already has links with major pharmaceutical companies but is looking to widen its services to a broader set of customers with the recent investment. The company’s expanse does not stop at healthcare; it says it also has ties with the industrial and agricultural industries.

The company also says the funding will help further develop the company’s predictive AI models.

The life cycle of drugs is being increasingly affected by AI as companies look to streamline processes. Early phases of development, such as drug discovery, have been one of the most transformed areas. AI models can sift over large datasets and predict potential drug compounds.

Tierra’s CEO Michael Nemzek says that the company’s platform makes a change from the inefficient and slow protein engineering methods that use living cells. He added Tierra’s platform can rapidly produce “large numbers of discrete custom proteins for screening and discovery”.

Material Impact partner Corinna Chen said: “Tierra's platform propels innovation in the bioeconomy by eliminating bottlenecks in protein discovery and manufacturing.”

Big pharma’s move to position itself at the forefront of AI has been a strong indicator of the industry’s sentiment towards the technology. BMS signed a $674m deal with genAI company VantAI earlier this year, following similar deals involving MSD, Genentech, and Eli Lilly with Amazon, NVIDIA, and Genesis, respectively.

It remains to be seen whether Tierra can reach the Series B heights of its genAI counterparts. Deep learning biotech startup Evozyne, which uses AI to simulate millions of years of evolution in proteins to identify targets, raised $81m in a Series B round in September 2023. Genesis Therapeutics, which uses generative and predictive AI technology to accelerate drug discovery, closed a $200m Series B round last August.

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