Synvitrobio, a bioscience startup founded by Cohort Two fellow Zachary Sun, has announced the closure of an oversubscribed $2.6 million seed funding round, led by Social Capital, with participation from Fifty Years and KdT Ventures. The company, which is advancing cell-free synthetic biology, automation, and computation to search for potentially valuable molecules inaccessible by current methods, has also changed its name to Tierra Biosciences in order to reflect its focus of exploring molecules from the world’s soils and oceans.
"For over 3.5 billion years, nature has produced billions of molecules, most of whose properties have yet to be discovered. These molecules could be used to cure disease, improve food production, and create the products of tomorrow," said Jay Zaveri, Partner at Social Capital, in a funding announcement. "Zach and the Tierra Biosciences team are building a scalable platform for deepening our understanding of these molecules. We're excited to support them on their quest to improve healthcare, agriculture and so many other areas."
Sun has recently hired a chief scientific officer, Louis Metzger, who previously worked as an investigator at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. He also brought on Bradley Moore, a professor at University of California, San Diego, whose lab studies marine microbial natural products, as a scientific advisor.
“So many therapeutic molecules come from nature, Metzger told TechCrunch reporter Jonathon Shieber in a feature about the startup. “As the DNA of plants, animals and microbes is read in exponentially increasing volume, we expect to find useful and game-changing chemistry encoded by it. Tierra’s platform will allow us to look for molecules which might otherwise be buried in the complexity of cells’ metabolism.”
The funding, growing team, and rebranding are placing Tierra Biosciences on a trajectory to scale out its proprietary approach to molecule discovery. Sun explained his firm’s approach to TechCrunch: “Everything floats in the cytoplasm… We keep that internal stuff and that allows us to run reactions where a cell wall isn’t necessary. I want to reduce the complex system down to its component parts. We look at this as a data collection problem. We can collect more data faster using our cell-free system.”
Ilan Gur, our executive director, said observing Sun’s trajectory since he joined the program, and his commitment to bringing his technology vision into reality, has been edifying. “We saw Zach completely transform himself and his company at Cyclotron Road but his vision has been clear and relentless from day one,” he said.