Home » Tierra Bio Raises $11.4 Million to Expand Designer Protein-to-Order Platform

Tierra Bio Raises $11.4 Million to Expand Designer Protein-to-Order Platform

by Kehinde Giwa
  • Tierra Bio secures $11.4 million in funding to expand its AI-driven cell-free protein synthesis platform.
  • Material Impact led the investment round, with participation from notable investors like Prosus Ventures and In-Q-Tel (IQT).
  • CEO Michael Nemzek highlights the inefficiencies of traditional protein engineering and emphasises Tierra’s rapid and scalable approach.
  • Tierra’s platform enables customers to order custom proteins online, leveraging AI to optimise biosynthesis methods, with plans to use the funding to enhance the platform and grow its team.

Tierra Bio, a pioneering startup in California, which specialises in AI-driven cell-free technology for streamlined custom protein synthesis has successfully raised $11.4 million in investment. 

Material Impact led the round, building upon Tierra Biosciences’ previous financial achievements, which include $6 million in seed funding and over $7 million in grant funding. 

Notable investors participating in this round include Prosus Ventures, In-Q-Tel (IQT), Hillspire, Freeflow Ventures, Creative Ventures, and Social Capital, indicating widespread confidence in Tierra Biosciences’ innovative approach and promising future prospects.

“Traditional protein engineering using living cells is slow, inefficient, and data poor,” said CEO Michael Nemzek. 

“Tierra’s cell-free protein production platform will change the game, powering our customers’ discovery efforts with rapid access to large numbers of discrete custom proteins for screening and discovery, plus fast yield scale-up for downstream development and pilot work.”

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

According to CEO Michael Nemzek, in the traditional approach, companies aiming to create new proteins produce them individually, typically utilising microbes like E. coli as their production base

“Then they have to transfect the cells [insert foreign DNA that instructs the cell to make the target protein], they have to extract the protein from the cells and purify it and so forth, so it’s laborious and slow and you really don’t learn much from the process.”

Similarly to how companies can currently request DNA sequences, Tierra customers have the option to order customised proteins through Tierra’s protein platform. 

Initially, customers input digital protein sequences into Tierra’s online portal, which evaluates their characteristics and the optimal methods for biosynthesis. 

Subsequently, Tierra employs a cell-free manufacturing technique to produce the desired proteins, which are subsequently delivered to customers for evaluation, explained Nemzek

Nemzek stated that Tierra has collaborated with clients across various sectors including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, agriculture, and food. 

The company intends to utilise the series A funding to grow its platform, bolster its team, and push forward its AI data generation initiatives.

Nemzek said: “We made over 5,000 proteins to date and each protein we make has data associated with it and these large language models look at this and get smarter and smarter over time, such that we can start to predict, based on sequence, the behaviour of the protein.”

The work done by the platform to identify how to produce the protein using a cell-free approach can also help clients determine optimal conditions to produce it at scale, he explained.

The learnings from the platform “transfer pretty well to the cell world” for large-scale production, which in many cases will not be cell-free, he added.

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