Biosensor startup Monod lands $6M and spins out of Univ. of Washington’s Institute for Protein Design

A brand new biotech startup has hatched from the College of Washington’s Institute for Protein Design with $6 million in funding and a management workforce contemporary from Neoleukin Therapeutics, one other IPD spinout.

Monod Bio is creating biosensors that may shortly detect viral proteins, toxins, antibodies, or different molecules. The sensors are constructed from engineered proteins developed on the IPD. When the sensor acknowledges its goal, it emits gentle.

The sensors are engineered utilizing IPD software program that may design proteins from scratch, “de novo”, as an alternative of from the extra restricted quantity of designs present in nature.

“We’re the primary firm, so far as we all know, utilizing de novo computational protein design for biosensors and diagnostics,” stated chief scientific officer Alfredo Quijano Rubio in an interview with GeekWire. The sensors work in take a look at tubes, and one of the corporate’s subsequent steps is to make them simpler to make use of, much like at-home being pregnant exams.

Quijano Rubio designed sensors to acknowledge a range of targets whereas working within the lab of IPD head David Baker, the place he was a graduate scholar till this spring.

In a study in Nature this January, Quijano Rubio, Baker and their colleagues showcased sensors that acknowledge the “spike” protein of the COVID-19 virus in addition to antibodies to it. Different sensors acknowledged botulism toxin, the cancer-related HER2 receptor, and cardiac troponin, which is launched by the physique after a coronary heart assault.

“The consequence of that is that you would be able to now carry biosensors to locations the place you normally don’t have them, like wearables or level of care,” stated Monod CEO Daniel-Adriano Silva.

Troponin, for occasion, is normally measured within the hospital to assist assess if somebody has had a coronary heart assault. As a substitute, Silva envisions testing somebody within the ambulance on the best way to the hospital.

Silva left his job this spring as head of analysis at Neoleukin, which is creating remedies for most cancers and COVID-19, to discover beginning a brand new firm. “I began going again to speak to David, to see what was the subsequent expertise,” he stated.

He didn’t must look far. Quijano Rubio can also be a co-founder at Neoleukin. David Shoultz, previously head of Neoleukin’s COVID-19 program, was tapped as COO and co-founder.

Different Monod co-founders embrace IPD head Baker, IPD scientist Andy (Hsien Wei) Yeh and Dave Johnson, former CEO of VelosBio, which was acquired by Merck for $2.75 billion final yr.

The workforce has been working since November from CoMotion Labs on the College of Washington campus. In December, the startup accomplished its $6 million seed spherical from associates and household.  

Seattle is peppered with IPD startups. Cyrus Biotechnology, for occasion, just lately raised $18 million and has greater than 90 drug firm partnerships, A-Alpha Bio has raised $20 million, and Icosavax went public this year with a $180 million increase to advance its vaccines for COVID-19 and different circumstances.


IPD researchers additionally gained Science journal’s “Breakthrough of the 12 months” award this December for their AI-powered software program to foretell how proteins fold. Monod’s sensors are designed with protein engineering software program developed earlier at IPD, referred to as Rosetta.

The Monod workforce will use the funds to mature and broaden its platform, generate new biosensors for further targets in biotechnology and well being, and construct prototypes to detect targets in real-world functions.

IPD researchers have additionally constructed sensors to detect a set of COVID-19 antibodies, with the intention of figuring out an individual’s degree of antibody immune safety. They showcased these sensors in a recent preprint.

Monod’s sensors depend on two parts. One element is a protein that acknowledges a goal. Upon goal recognition the protein shifts from a closed to an open state. In its open state, the protein is ready to bind the second element of the sensor. When the 2 bind, the sensor lights up. The sunshine is emitted from luciferase, a light-emitting enzyme.

The area that acknowledges the goal might be swapped out for one other. “Alfredo figured out a method to make this in a modular approach,” stated Silva.

Upon goal binding, the sensor shifts in a approach that propagates via the protein to open up its form. Such an impact, the place an motion at one half of a protein is transmitted to a different, is known as allostery, and it’s used to control the exercise of many of the physique’s proteins. Allostery was discovered in the 1960’s by Nobel-prize profitable biochemist Jacques Monod and his colleagues.

Monod is now hiring protein biochemists and engineers. The workforce is trying for its personal area in Seattle’s tight lab market and goals to develop to round 15 or 20 workers by the top of 2022.

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