Protai, a proteomics and AI-powered drug discovery startup revolutionizing the way new drugs are discovered, today announced that it has added $12 million to its seed round, bringing the total amount to $20M. The round includes existing investors Grove Ventures and Pitango HealthTech and was joined by Copenhagen-based Maj Invest Equity Fund. The additional funding will be used to build Protai’s oncology drug discovery pipeline, expand data acquisition as well as increase its discovery activities via pharma partnerships.
Genomic biomarkers are only relevant for approximately 15% of tumors, thus limited in use. Protein-level biomarkers can predict patient populations not seen by genomic means, by directly measuring proteins, their interactions, and their functions. To tap into the potential of protein-level data, Protai has built a proteomics AI-based platform that comprehensively maps the course of a disease on the protein level. Its technology allows it to better predict which patients will respond to a given drug, as well as discover novel drug targets that were missed by genomic approaches. These discoveries may be the key to significantly accelerating drug discovery and clinical development, lowering the time and costs of R&D.
Since its initial funding last year, Protai has opened laboratories at its Israel R&D center for data acquisition, biological validation and drug discovery activities and recruited an experienced drug discovery team with significant experience in successfully bringing drugs to the clinic. Additionally, Protai established collaborations with several leading hospitals, and now has access to over 100k well-defined banked samples for its comprehensive tumor mapping process, focused on gyno-oncology and lung cancer indications.
With the additional funding, Protai will expand its activities to include an oncology drug discovery pipeline, initially focusing on targets with a clearly-defined novel patient population biomarker, derived from its AI proteomics platform. To help navigate these efforts, the company has added Dr. Sharon Shacham, a serial biotech entrepreneur and Founder of Karyopharm Therapeutics, to Protai’s Board of Directors. In addition, Protai is supported by leading oncology experts, including Prof. Giulio Draetta, Chief Scientific Officer at MD Anderson and former Pharma executive; Prof. Bradley J. Monk, Director of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine; Prof. Funda Meric-Bernstam, Chair of the Department of Investigational Cancer Therapeutics at MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Dr. Jurgen Moll, former Head Molecular Oncology, Sanofi Vitry. In addition,
“We are excited to announce this funding that supports our mission to enhance the drug development pathway from discovery through commercialization,” said Eran Seger, CEO and co-founder of Protai. “I am extremely proud of our talented team and the achievements we have made to date. We look forward to scaling our organization and its important work towards revolutionizing the drug development landscape.”
“Our investment in Protai highlights Maj Invest’s increasing investment in the Israeli tech ecosystem,” said Jeppe Christian, CEO of Maj Invest Equity Fund. “We are excited to partner with this exceptional team, and we are positive that Protai will make a huge leap forward in how patients are treated and cured.”
Protai empowers drug discovery and development with proteomic response biomarkers and artificial intelligence to unlock new layers of biological insights and to combat complex diseases. Protai’s platform has made a leap in solving how drug candidates are created and validated, facilitating quicker and more advanced drug discovery, specifically through its internal oncology pipeline. Protai is backed by mission-driven leading VC funds Grove Ventures, Pitango HealthTech, and Copenhagen-based Maj Invest. with an advisory board including world-renowned proteomics and machine learning researchers and oncology-focused pharma and clinical leaders. The Tel Aviv-based company was founded by Eran Seger and Kirill Pevzner, experienced entrepreneurs and tech executives, and alumni of the elite technological unit of the Israeli intelligence corps.