A-Alpha Bio raises $2.8m to solve ‘major problems’ in early-stage drug development: CEO

By Melissa Fassbender

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/Natali_Mis)
(Image: Getty/Natali_Mis)

Related tags A-Alpha Bio machine learning

A-Alpha Bio raises $2.8m from venture capital firms and angel investors to further develop its technology – and initiate drug discovery and optimization partnerships with pharmaceutical companies.

A team of synthetic biologists from the University of Washington's Institute for Protein Design and Center for Synthetic Biology founded A-Alpha Bio in 2017.

Based in Seattle, WA, the company’s proprietary platform technology – AlphaSeq – measures interactions between proteins ‘at a library-on-library scale.’

“The AlphaSeq platform is unique in that it can test the ability of a drug to bind to multiple protein targets in a single, time-saving step,” ​said Dr. David Younger, co-founder and CEO of A-Alpha Bio, explaining that pharmaceutical companies currently can only test these interactions “one target at a time.”

Conversely, by testing millions of interactions concurrently, AlphaSeq enables companies to develop treatments more efficiently, he told us.

“For biologics discovery and optimization, this involves testing libraries of biologics candidates for binding against many target proteins simultaneously,”​ explained Younger. “For small-molecule drug development, this involves characterizing the effect of a drug candidate on a whole protein interaction network in a single step.”

“In both cases,” ​he added, “AlphaSeq solves major problems in early-stage pharmaceutical development.”

The funding will primarily be used to validate and improve the platform against various disease targets, mainly in the immuno-oncology and infectious disease space. The company also will initiate drug discovery and optimization partnerships with pharmaceutical companies.

An ‘unprecedented’ amount of data

Though A-Alpha Bio will use machine learning to analyze data sets, it is not primarily an artificial intelligence​ (AI) company. Explained Younger, “AlphaSeq is a wetlab platform that uses genetically engineered yeast cells to physically measure interactions between protein libraries.”

Still, addressing the AI for drug discovery market​, Younger noted that it is dependent on high-quality input data sets – for which at A-Alpha Bio has a tool to generate.

Younger said the company is excited about using this ‘unprecedented’ amount of data to accelerate drug development, both internally and as part of collaborations.

“We are very excited to have an incredible group of investors supporting us in our seed round - and in particular to have OS Fund lead the round,”​ he added. “Their mission of investing in companies that will lower barriers to scientific discovery strongly aligns with our own vision and they have had a hand investing in some of the most successful companies in the synbio space.”

OS Fund led the funding round and was joined by AME Cloud Ventures, Boom Capital, Madrona Venture Group, Sahsen Ventures, and Washington Research Foundation, as well as angel investors.

Additionally, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation earlier this year awarded A-Alpha Bio a grant to develop drugs for infectious diseases.

Since it was founded, the company also has been backed by CoMotion, the University of Washington’s collaborative innovation hub, as well as the National Science Foundation.

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