Scala Biodesign exits stealth with Seed funding to engineer proteins of the future
September 11, 2023 - 3 min read
TEL AVIV — September 11, 2023 — Scala Biodesign exited stealth today, revealing $5.5M of funding for their solution to dramatically improve and speed up the development of proteins into biotech products. The seed round was led by TLV Partners.
Custom antibody therapies, vaccines, food products, and clean production of chemicals: proteins are revolutionizing multiple industries. But developing and mass-producing custom proteins is a long, expensive, and uncertain process because natural proteins are almost never suitable for industry — they are often unstable, costly to manufacture, and insufficiently active.
Protein engineering can modify a protein into an industrial-grade product, but current engineering methods rely on iterative trial-and-error testing of thousands and often millions of versions in the lab. This process can take years, cost millions, and often fails.
Scala makes it possible to engineer and improve proteins immediately and in one shot. Fusing physics-based modeling, AI, and biological data analysis, Scala enables companies to develop new medicines, green production processes, and foods radically faster and cheaper, allowing the creation of entirely new applications of biotechnology that weren’t possible using traditional methods.
Scala was founded by Dr. Ravit Netzer (CEO) and Dr. Adi Goldenzweig (CTO), who researched the challenges of protein engineering in Prof. Sarel Fleishman’s laboratory at the Weizmann Institute of Science. The team developed algorithms for protein design that became the state-of-the-art among academic protein engineers, with over 100 peer-reviewed papers based on the team’s technology.
“Researchers, students, and companies, everyone wanted to use our technology,” said Dr. Goldenzweig, CTO and co-founder of Scala. “We realized that there was a huge need. Quickly optimizing vaccine immunogens, enzymes, antibodies, and more, opens so many doors for advancing technology and the wellbeing of humanity and the environment”.
As one example, Dr. Goldenzweig used her method to improve a malaria vaccine that is now in Phase II clinical trials in W. Africa. Another application of the technology generated wood-degrading enzymes for biofuel production.
Dr. Netzer and Dr. Goldenzweig founded Scala with Prof. Fleishman as Chief Scientist in order to address the demand from major pharma and biotech companies. The team’s mission is to provide a one-stop shop for efficient and economical protein engineering. They named the company Scala to highlight that protein engineering can now be applied at scale to solve myriads of biotechnology challenges.
“The answers to some of the greatest challenges that modern society faces are out there in nature, but until now it was extremely difficult to apply these answers at global, industrial scales,” said Dr. Ravit Netzer, co-founder and CEO of Scala. “Scala makes the impossible easy, and will lead to the next wave of innovation in biotech.”
Shahar Tzafrir, Managing Partner at TLV Partners, said “Alphafold’s impact on biology was profound, catalyzing science and startups. The next complex challenge — translating protein structure into function and determining which properties can be ’edited’ for a specific desired outcome — is beyond the reach of AI alone. It requires a unique blend of AI, physics, biology, and chemistry. Scala’s founders successfully tackled this in academia, where scientists and the industry widely and enthusiastically embraced their breakthroughs. Recognizing the tremendous potential, they’re now pivoting their academic success into a company, set to redefine how proteins are designed with purpose.”
Scala is now working with a small group of early customers, including top-tier pharmaceutical companies, taking part in some of the most exciting protein engineering projects in the world.