Cyrus Biotechnology is getting an $8 million infusion for its cloud-based protein modeling and design toolkit, thanks to a Series A financing round.
The investment round was led by Trinity Ventures, with participation from OrbiMed Advisors, SpringRock Ventures, the W Fund and individual investors, the Seattle-based venture said today in a news release.
Cyrus Biotech’s primary product, Cyrus Bench, is a software package based on Rosetta, a protein-modeling platform that was created at the University of Washington. Rosetta lets researchers twist and turn virtual models of protein molecules to create novel configurations. (It’s even spawned a video game for citizen scientists called Foldit and a screensaver called Rosetta@Home.)
Protein-folding has been compared to solving puzzles, or building molecular-scale keys for cellular locks. A protein molecule with the right shape could block a virus from invading a cell, or unlock a therapy for disease.
Rosetta-based research already has led to pharmaceutical advances, such as Tocagen’s Toca 511, an anticancer drug currently undergoing clinical trials; and PvP Biologics’ KumaMax, a synthetic enzyme that shows promise as a treatment for celiac disease.
“Rosetta has achieved a variety of firsts,” Cyrus CEO Lucas Nivon told GeekWire. “Our mission is to bring all of that to market. We’re still using just a fraction of the power that Rosetta has.”
UW licensed Rosetta to Cyrus Biotech for commercialization in 2015, and since then, Cyrus has transformed the research software into an easier-to-use, software-as-a-service platform. Nivon compared Cyrus Bench to Microsoft Office. It’s designed to offer a wide range of tools for protein engineering, tailor-made for drug discovery and development.
Cyrus also provides support, training and customization services for its customers.
The company currently has more than two dozen customers, including seven of the top 20 pharma firms as well as biotech startups and companies that produce chemicals and consumer products, Nivon said. “We’re on our revenue targets for this year,” he said, without elaborating on the balance sheet.
The new investment will help Cyrus add to the Bench feature list. Nivon extended the Office analogy, saying that “right now we have Word and Excel, but no PowerPoint or spellcheck.”
He said Cyrus will be significantly expanding its staff, which currently adds up to 14 full-time equivalents. The company is already looking for data scientists and software engineers.
The Series A round will be added to $2.7 million in previous early-stage financing, Nivon said. He declined to say how the new investment translates into company valuation.
Trinity Ventures’ Gus Tai and SpringRock’s Eric Bell will join Cyrus’ board of directors. In today’s news release, Tai said he was excited to help bring Cyrus Bench to a wide variety of customers, “to truly democratize computational protein engineering and lower the cost of entry, as we have seen in software tech.”