Xaira launches with $1bn for AI drug discovery and development

Company aims to leverage AI to ‘connect the world of biological targets and engineered molecules to the human experience of disease.’

AI drug discovery company Xaira Therapeutics has launched with more than $1 billion in funding as it seeks to reshape the landscape of medicine. The San Francisco-based company is built on three core pillars: leveraging machine learning to better understand biology, generating the data needed to create new models of disease, and ultimately developing “robust therapeutic products” for the treatment of a wide range of diseases.

The company was incubated by ARCH Venture Partners and Foresite Capital, who also led the funding round, joined by a host of top-tier investors, including, F-Prime, NEA, Sequoia Capital, Lux Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Menlo Ventures and many others.

“We have reached the point where AI finally allows us to see biology in new ways, and translate those discoveries to better treatments for disease,” said ARCH’s Robert Nelsen. “This creates an enormous opportunity for us to rethink drug discovery entirely. For this reason, Xaira is the largest initial funding commitment in ARCH history.”

While its specific areas of disease interest have not yet been revealed, Xaira’s focus on broadening understanding of fundamental biology will resonate with many in the longevity field. Co-founded by University of Washington School of Medicine professor David Baker, a luminary in biochemistry and protein design, the company is building AI research capabilities with a focus on “biological discovery, the design of drug-like matter, and clinical development.”

Xaira has recruited a group of researchers who developed the leading models for protein and antibody design while in Baker’s lab. The company aims advance these models and develop new methods that can “connect the world of biological targets and engineered molecules to the human experience of disease.”

“Driven by growing data sets and new methods, there has been accelerating progress in artificial intelligence and its applications to medicine, biology and chemistry, including seminal work from David Baker’s lab at the Institute for Protein Design,” said Foresight’s Dr Vikram Bajaj. “In starting Xaira, we have brought together incredible multidisciplinary talent and capabilities at the right time to reimagine our entire approach, from drug discovery to clinical development.”

Boasting proficiency in handling vast and multidimensional datasets, Xaira claims it will enable comprehensive characterization of disease biology at various levels, from molecular to clinical. Drawing from Illumina’s functional genomics R&D effort and integrating a key proteomics group from Interline Therapeutics, the company aims to gain new insights into disease mechanisms.

Finally, Xaira says its platform will enable robust therapeutic product development across multiple modalities, providing a foundation for a pipeline of differentiated therapeutics. The company says that its platform will “transform every laboratory and clinical experiment into a vehicle for rich data generation,” supporting the development of improved AI and biological foundation models.

Led by former Genentech CSO Dr Marc Tessier-Lavigne, the company boasts a leadership team including Dr Hetu Kamisetty, formerly of Meta and the Institute for Protein Design, Dr Arvind Rajpal, formerly of Genentech, and Dr Don Kirkpatrick, formerly of Interline and Genentech.

“In my previous roles, I witnessed an earlier generation of technologies fundamentally change drug discovery, delivering new medicines that alleviate the burden of disease for many patients,” said Tessier-Lavigne, who last year controversially resigned as President of Stanford University after questions were raised about some of his research. “Now, witnessing how AI is impacting other industries and the considerable progress in applications of AI in biology, I believe we are poised for a revolution. Xaira is in a strong position to both advance fundamental AI research and translate these advances into transformative new medicines, and I am excited to have the opportunity to lead the team.”