Asimov Raises $200 Million to Advance Therapeutics Design and Manufacturing with Synthetic Biology

Funds will enable expansion of mammalian synthetic biology tools and services business for advanced therapies

BOSTON, Jan. 5, 2023 – Asimov, the synthetic biology company building tools to design living systems, today announced $200 million in new funding. Asimov plans to use the funds to scale its tools and services business in biologics, cell/gene therapies, and RNA.

The financing includes a $175M Series B led by Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments), with participation from Fidelity Management & Research Company, KDT, Casdin Capital, Pillar, and Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), who led Asimov’s seed round. Paul McCracken, Ph.D., Managing Director in Growth Equity at CPP Investments, joins Asimov’s board of directors. The round follows a $25M Series A led by Horizons Ventures, who also participated in the Series B round.

“The field of engineered medicines is advancing rapidly. A wave of therapeutics that used to be the stuff of science fiction is now reaching patients,” said Alec Nielsen, co-founder and CEO of Asimov. “But the technology to design and manufacture these drugs hasn’t kept up. At Asimov we’re integrating synthetic biology and computer-aided design to address the challenges of high manufacturing costs, drug quality, and scalability. We’re energized to partner with such an acclaimed set of investors that shares our vision.”

Asimov currently partners with more than 25 companies spanning top-10 pharmas, biotechs, and contract development and manufacturing organizations. Asimov provides an integrated suite of technologies to its partners, including proprietary cell lines, software for genetic design, and a growing catalog of engineered genetic systems for different applications. The company’s platform, which stems from an approach originally developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston University, marries cell biology and quantitative engineering principles. This significant funding round will allow Asimov to focus on scaling its platform business, expanding its R&D to tackle new modalities, and growing its 70-person, cross-disciplinary team.

“The past decade has seen historic first-in-class approvals for an array of new therapeutic drug classes, such as bispecific antibodies, AAV gene therapies, engineered cell therapies, and messenger RNA. There is an accelerating demand for new tools and services to develop and manufacture these novel products, many of which are highly complex. This has created compelling opportunities, such as this investment in Asimov, that are a strong fit for our Innovations in Health Care strategy,” said Leon Pedersen, Managing Director and Head of Growth Equity at CPP Investments.

“Synthetic biology gives us the opportunity to reimagine how we build our world, but to deliver on its full potential we need better tools for designing and programming biology,” said Jorge Conde, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz and board member at Asimov. “While biotech R&D often relies on cycles of trial-and-error, Asimov is building a platform to design, simulate, and optimize genetic systems more reliably. This approach to programming living cells has the potential to address large unmet needs in the therapeutics space and bring us the next generation of programmable medicines.”

About Asimov

Headquartered in Boston, Asimov’s mission is to advance humanity’s ability to design living systems, enabling biotechnologies with outsized societal benefit. The company is developing a synthetic biology platform – from cells to software – to design and manufacture next-generation therapeutics, including biologics, cell/gene therapies, and RNA. Founded by bioengineers from MIT and Boston University, the company has raised over $200 million from top institutional investors including Andreessen Horowitz, CPP Investments, Horizons Ventures, and Fidelity Management & Research Company. For more information, visit www.asimov.com.

Highlights

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Asimov, the synthetic biology company building a full-stack platform to program living cells, announced today it has been awarded a contract as part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Automating Scientific Knowledge Extraction (ASKE) opportunity.

Through ASKE, Asimov will work to develop a physics-based artificial intelligence (AI) design engine for biology. The goal of the initiative is to improve the reliability of programming complex cellular behaviors.

“To achieve truly predictive engineering of biology, we require dramatic advances in computer-aided design. Machine learning will be critical to bridge genome-scale experimental data with computational models that accurately capture the underlying biophysics. As genetically engineered systems grow in complexity, they become difficult for humans to design and understand. For simple genetic systems with only a couple of genes, synthetic biologists typically use high-throughput screening and basic optimization algorithms. But to engineer more complex applications in health, materials, and manufacturing, we need radically new algorithms to intelligently design the DNA and simulate cell behavior.”

Alec Nielsen, Phd, Asimov CEO
Over the past 50 years, DARPA has been a world leader in spurring innovation across the field of AI, including statistical-learning and rule-based approaches. We are proud to work with DARPA to advance the state-of-the-art in AI-assisted genetic engineering.

Asimov’s founders previously built a hybrid genetic engineering and computer-aided design platform called Cello to program logic circuit behaviors in cells. The ASKE opportunity will seek to support an ambitious expansion in the types of biological behaviors that can be engineered.

Asimov’s approach will leverage “multi-omics” cellular measurements, structured biological metadata, and novel AI architectures that combine deep learning, reinforcement learning, and mechanistic modeling. Over the past year, the company has ramped up hiring in experimental synthetic biology, machine learning, and data science to accelerate development of their genetic design platform.

Highlights

Headering 3

DARPA recently announced a multi-year investment of $2B into innovative artificial intelligence research called the AI Next campaign. A part of this wide-ranging AI strategy is DARPA’s Artificial Intelligence Exploration program, which was developed to help expeditiously move pioneering AI research from idea to exploration in fewer than 90 days. DARPA’s ASKE opportunity is part of this program and is focused on developing AI technologies that can reason over rich models of complex systems.

“Over the past 50 years, DARPA has been a world leader in spurring innovation across the field of AI, including statistical-learning and rule-based approaches. We are proud to work with DARPA to advance the state-of-the-art in AI-assisted genetic engineering.”

Alec Nielsen, PhD, Asimov CEO
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Asimov team at their Boston office