Amsterdam and Zurich-based Cradle, a biotech startup, has raised $24M (approximately €21.92M) in a Series A funding round. The company specialises in utilising generative artificial intelligence (AI) to assist scientists in designing and engineering proteins.
With this round, the total raised by Cradle comes to $33M, to date. Prior to this round, in November 2022, the startup came out of stealth mode and raised €5.5M in a Seed round of funding.
Investors supporting Cradle
The Series A investment was led by Index Ventures with participation from Kindred Capital.
Angel investors also participated in the round, including Chris Gibson (co-founder and CEO of Recursion) and Tom Glocer (former CEO of Thomson Reuters and Lead Director, Merck).
Sofia Dolfe, partner at Index Ventures says, “The application of AI in biology will be transformational, helping to solve some of the biggest health and climate challenges.”
“The early results, from projects run by companies with some of the largest R&D budgets globally, indicate that Cradle’s technology is already dramatically accelerating the pace of innovation in a field that will reshape how we produce much of what we consume.”
“The team has continued to rapidly expand the capabilities of its platform to meet significant customer demand. It’s exciting to see how scientists leverage Cradle to design new proteins and advance this emerging field of programming biology,” adds Dolfe.
Spearheading protein design and optimisation
Since emerging from stealth mode in 2022, Cradle claims to have experienced high demand for its AI for biology technology, showcasing its platform’s efficacy in reducing both time and costs in protein-based product research and development.
Currently, with nine industry partners, including Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Novozymes, and Twist Bioscience, the company is engaged in over 12 R&D projects.
These projects span various protein modalities—encompassing enzymes, vaccines, peptides, and antibodies—and target diverse properties such as stability, expression, activity, binding affinity, and specificity.
Cradle claims that its technology has demonstrated remarkable results, accelerating the design and optimisation of proteins by streamlining experiments. Most projects utilising the company’s platform progress twice as fast.
Cradle’s technology can also enhance the likelihood of success in R&D programmes by leveraging generative AI to address protein engineering challenges that surpass human capabilities using existing tools.
Cradle will use the funds to expand its distinguished machine learning and biotech team. The current team, comprising 20 individuals based in Delft, The Netherlands, and Zurich, Switzerland, is set to grow further in 2024.
Additionally, the company plans to enhance its infrastructure by establishing additional laboratory and engineering facilities in Amsterdam.
This expansion will not only support accelerated research but also generate more data for training AI models, reinforcing Cradle’s commitment to advancing its product development and sales capabilities.
Cradle’s strategic focus includes ongoing development of its platform to accommodate a growing customer base, aligning with increasing demand.
The company is committed to evolving the user experience, ensuring that the platform remains intuitive and accessible for scientists and experimentalists, even those without a background in machine learning.
Generative AI to create products for human and planetary health
Cradle’s web-based software facilitates the application of biology for diverse product creation, spanning medicines, sustainable alternatives, food products, petrochemical-free detergents and plastics, raw materials for clothing and electronics, and specialised enzymes for pollutant breakdown.
The software eliminates data roadblocks, enabling teams of scientists and experimentalists to leverage Generative AI and ML tools in their R&D pipelines without the need for bioinformaticians or machine learning engineers.
Cradle’s generative AI models trained on billions of protein sequences as well as data generated in their own wet laboratory.
Stef van Grieken, Cradle’s CEO and co-founder says, “Biological products are one of the biggest tools we can deploy to improve health outcomes and reduce the environmental impact of human consumption.”
“By using generative AI and machine learning to help biologists design and optimise proteins faster and more efficiently, we can help research and development teams innovate faster, spend less and ultimately be more successful in developing new products.”
“In the last year, we’ve been focused on demonstrating that our technology can deliver meaningful results and initiating partnerships with a number of true industry leaders.”
“We’re thrilled with the progress to date and are excited to have closed our Series A, which gives us everything we need to build on this momentum, accelerate our growth and onboard more customers to our platform,” adds Van Grieken.