Cyrus Biotechnology is a spin-out from an academic research institute, the IPD at the University of Washington, where it was incubated as an effort to commercialize a very complex protein simulation software package, Rosetta. The co-founders are all fascinated by the chemistry of life and they are the experts in using software algorithms to solve important problems in the real world, from healthcare to sustainable materials. They all came to this field of protein modeling because it combines the “wet lab” of biochemistry with the “dry lab” of algorithms — it turns biotechnology into software technology for the first time. After working together at the IPD with one another and with their former supervisor Prof. David Baker, and finding that many many companies and academic labs want to use Rosetta, they started to think about ways to make these algorithms more accessible. They later found that public cloud and web browser technologies were mature enough to make a full SaaS platform feasible, that companies were interested in using such a platform, and Cyrus was born. To find out more we sat down with Lucas Nivon, Co-Founder & CEO of Cyrus Biotechnology:
Q: You’ve recently announced $8 Million Series A funding round; could you tell us something more?
A: We are very excited to close this first institutional financing round with such knowledgeable, high-caliber biotech and high-tech investors. The new funding validates our business plan and allows us to expand the capabilities and opportunities of this cutting-edge platform. Our Bench® technology broadens access to the most advanced computational methods, giving more scientists the means to speed their research and save costs. The result will be more effective drugs getting to patients sooner.
Q: Tell us something more about Cyrus Bench?
A: Cyrus Bench® software is based on years of work in computational biophysics and the first software algorithms to design new proteins in a computer for drug discovery as well as for new product development at synthetic biology, chemical and consumer products firms. Bench® is a graphical, cloud-enabled version of the Rosetta protein modeling toolkit first developed at Cyrus co-founder Professor David Baker’s laboratory at the University of Washington. Data generated from Rosetta technology can be used in the design of new potential therapeutics, such as a therapeutic protein of Tocagen’s Toca 511 and PVP Biologics’ KumaMax, an oral enzyme. In many cases, Cyrus customers use our software to re-design drug candidates that are not able to advance to animal or human testing. For example, one early customer moved a biologic candidate from in vitro phase to pre-clinical after re-engineering their protein with Cyrus.
While Rosetta has been successful in drug development, it is difficult to use without months or even years of training. This was the genesis of Cyrus. Cyrus believes that, in a few years, many drugs will be developed entirely inside of a computer. Bench® has been designed to make this technology more user-friendly and for a wider range of users than previous academic-based software.
Q: Who are the primary clients of Cyrus Biotechnology?
A: Our customers are Pharmaceutical firms, Biotechs, Consumer Products, Chemical and Synthetic Biology firms, ranging from Fortune 500 (7 of the top 20 global BioPharma firms) to Series A stage startups.
Q: What are the goals you are aiming for?
A: With this financing we are aiming to further expand the feature set of Bench. We currently offer a very useful but limited set of tools, and we are planning to accelerate our process of introducing new useful features for our customers and our future customers. We will be announcing those exciting new features as they become available.