Picture of protein structure used to illustrate AlphaFold database release
Credit: Karen Arnott, EMBL-EBI

Manifold Bio, a therapeutics firm pioneering a protein barcoding technology for drug discovery, has announced the close of a $40 million Series A financing round. The company was founded by George Church, PhD, and leading biological engineers from his laboratory at Harvard Medical School and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

Manifold is pursuing a pipeline of “targeting-enhanced” protein therapeutics. Their M-Design platform is designed for massively parallel in vivo testing of protein therapeutics.

Since raising $5.4 million in seed funding in 2020 led by Playground Global, Manifold Bio has advanced their novel protein barcoding technology, which is the foundation for their in vivo discovery platform and other pooled measurement capabilities. Using this platform, the company has initiated several internal programs focused in oncology.

Church has founded more than a dozen companies, including personal genome sequencing start up Nebula Genomics. The current financing round for Manifold was led by Triatomic Capital and joined by new investors Section 32, FPV Ventures, Horizons Ventures, and Tencent. Existing investors Playground Global, Fifty Years, and FAST by GETTYLAB also participated. The investment will support the company’s internal drug programs and help expand its protein engineering platform to support additional programs and partnerships.

“Despite a growing understanding of surface targets of diseased cells and the promise of new complex antibody formats, drug programs continue to face significant clinical challenges, including major dose limiting toxicities caused by imprecise targeting,” said co-founder and CEO Gleb Kuznetsov, Ph.D.

He adds that, “This comes from fundamental limitations of the current paradigm of protein therapeutics development, where engineering of these targeted drugs is largely decoupled from the complex mammalian environment they are meant to navigate. By bringing high-throughput in vivo measurement into the earliest phases of drug development, Manifold Bio is positioned to unlock the full potential of a whole class of protein therapeutics that we call targeted effectors—drugs like cell engagers and ADCs (antibody drug conjugates) where a powerful effect is driven to a precise location by an engineered targeting domain.”

“We are using our in vivo design engine in several internal programs while continuing to invest in scaling our platform,” said co-founder and CSO Pierce Ogden, Ph.D. “By making it possible to eventually test thousands of designs simultaneously, we can generate unprecedented data on the in vivo targeting behavior of our drug candidates and significantly change the clinical risk equation.”

“The Manifold Bio team has made excellent progress in their mission to enable the engineering of increasingly targeted and effective protein-based drugs through iterative massively-parallelized in vivo refinement,” said Jory Bell, Manifold Bio board director and general partner at Playground Global. “This entirely new approach fundamentally changes the paradigm for protein therapeutics and we’re delighted to deepen our investment in the company and its world-class team.”

With this funding, Triatomic Capital founding partner Jeff Huber will join Manifold Bio’s board of directors. Huber was previously founder and CEO of Grail and co-founder of Google’s life sciences efforts.

“Manifold Bio’s platform is the type of paradigm-shifting technology that has the potential to redefine how drug discovery is done,” said Huber, general partner at Triatomic Capital, a new fund created to support century-defining companies. “This exemplifies the power of engineered biology, one of the key pillars of our fund. Combined with the strength of the team and their rapid progress on platform and programs is why we’re excited to partner with Manifold Bio as our first investment.”

Also of Interest