February 10, 2021
Andreessen Horowitz-led investment fuels hiring and R&D for AI-enabled experimental platform that speeds the antibody engineering process
SAN CARLOS, CA, February 10, 2021 — BigHat Biosciences, a novel protein therapeutics company and developer of an AI-guided antibody design platform, today announced it has raised $19 million in an oversubscribed Series A funding round, led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from prior investors 8VC, AME Cloud Ventures, and Innovation Endeavors. As part of the investment, Andreessen Horowitz General Partner, Vineeta Agarwala, MD, PhD joins BigHat’s Board of Directors.
Biologics represent a rapidly growing therapeutic category. As of 2019, seven of the top ten drugs were biologics and there are currently more than 200 biotherapeutics in use, generating more than $100 billion in annual revenue for drug companies developing treatments for indications ranging from oncology to auto-immunity to infectious disease.
“Our mission is to improve human health by making it far easier to create advanced, next-generation antibody and protein therapeutics. BigHat is transforming antibody design from bulk screening to data-driven engineering to give precise control over the antibodies’ molecular properties. Leveraging recent advances in synthetic biology and machine learning, our platform measures and optimizes antibodies for the biophysical and functional properties needed for cutting-edge therapeutic applications,” said BigHat Co-founder and CEO Mark DePristo, PhD.
BigHat integrates a wet lab for high-speed characterization with machine learning technologies to guide the search for better antibodies. This approach dramatically speeds up design and discovery data acquisition cycles to days rather than weeks or months. It also provides greater optionality, eliminating the need for premature candidate selection and enabling the simultaneous measurement of a vast array of key biophysical properties of many molecules.
“There are very few biologic applications in which you can pose a hypothesis and have real, experimentally validated answers in days. BigHat’s molecular engineering methods allow us to optimize antibodies for affinity, stability, solubility, and even performance in a functional assay,” added BigHat Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) Peyton Greenside, PhD. “We’ve just started to explore the potential for novel antibody and protein therapeutics enabled by BigHat’s approach to discovery.”
Supercharged Antibody Development
Existing technologies only solve a sliver of the full design problem and traditional lab workflows take weeks-to-months to produce a protein variant and characterize its behavior. BigHat’s experimental platform reduces the time to enter clinical development by accelerating candidate discovery and validation.
“The relevant search space for protein therapeutics is orders of magnitude larger than a purely experimental approach anchored in naturally-occurring sequences can efficiently traverse,” said Vineeta Agarwala, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz. “This is why we believe BigHat’s platform, which combines machine learning, synthetic biology, and high-throughput experimentation, holds tremendous promise.”
Founded in late 2019, BigHat has experienced rapid growth during its proof-of-concept stage, reaching significant corporate and scientific milestones in its first 15 months. BigHat’s wet lab is actively producing and characterizing antibodies at scale. The cloud-based AI/ML platform improves designs each round by combining active learning with assay modeling of critical biophysical properties leading to the highest quality sequences. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, BigHat validated this platform by engineering a potent neutralizing SARS-CoV-2 bispecific antibody in the lab.
Following this platform demonstration, in late 2020, BigHat was awarded Amgen’s Golden Ticket to MBC BioLabs, which entitles them to lab bench space as well as access to the life sciences incubator community and Amgen’s scientific and business leaders. The company was also awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant for improving protein production from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). BigHat is collaborating with multiple strategic partners to leverage the platform to co-develop antibodies and other biotherapeutics.
The new capital will be used to expand the BigHat scientific and technical teams; the company is actively hiring exceptional antibody and protein engineers, AI/ML engineers, and computational biologists. Additionally, the funding will support further platform development, scaling capacity and advancement of BigHat’s own internal therapeutic programs towards human clinical trials.
“BigHat is applying AI in a dramatically different way than most life sciences startups. AI is by its nature iterative and so is drug development, but in a traditional lab you have long wait times between generations of data as discovery is done and redone. In BigHat’s wet lab, the platform increases throughput, speeds the feedback loop and really eliminates some of the cost and time barriers standing in the way of optimizing protein therapeutics,” said Francisco Gimenez, Partner at 8VC.
Founding Team and Advisory Board
The company was founded by CEO Mark DePristo, PhD, University of Cambridge, and CSO Peyton Greenside, PhD, Stanford, along with founding advisor Theresa Tribble, a Harvard University MBA and former Chief Business Officer (CBO) for Everlywell. Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, University of Pennsylvania, recently joined as CBO.
BigHat has assembled a world-class group of technical and business advisors. Scientific and business leaders advising the company span chemistry luminaries (Brian Kobilka, Nobel Laureate), AI and deep learning experts (Jake Gardner and Andrew Gordon Wilson), life sciences entrepreneurs (Stan Lapidus) and biologics drug discovery leaders (Greg Landes), among others.
December 14, 2020
BigHat is delighted to welcome Steve Doberstein to the BigHat advisory team! Steve is an expert in protein engineering with over 20 years of experience in the design and development of antibody, cytokine, and fusion protein drugs. Steve joins us most recently from Nektar Therapeutics where he was Chief R&D Officer and Chief Scientist for ten years and led all aspects of discovery research. Before that he was VP Research at innovative antibody developers XOMA, Five Prime Therapeutics, and Xencor where he played a pivotal role in bringing multiple product candidates through to IND in diabetes, oncology, autoimmune diseases. Steve holds a PhD in Cell Biology from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and did his postdoctoral training at UC Berkeley. Steve sits on the Board of Directors of Dicerna, and the Biotechnology Advisory Board of the University of Delaware.
Read more at the BigHat team at https://www.bighatbio.com/about.
November 18, 2020
October 1, 2020
BigHat Biosciences received a Phase I SBIR award from NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) to apply its AI-driven platform to rapidly identify high-yield expression vectors for therapeutic antibody production.
BigHat’s Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Peyton Greenside, noted, “We are honored that NIST sees the potential for our approach. This Phase I study will demonstrate that BigHat’s platform can design novel and improved DNA templates by querying only a tiny fraction of candidate sequences in a massive search space.”
The Phase I SBIR grant aims to increase protein production by jointly optimizing a 30 base pair DNA sequence involving the expression cassette and start of the protein coding sequence through tight coupling of computational and experimental evaluation on the BigHat platform. Sequences longer than ~10 base pairs have been historically intractable to search effectively because the search space is simply too large for comprehensive experimental exploration.
“We started BigHat Biosciences because we believe that AI/ML-powered molecular engineering will allow us to design biotherapeutics inaccessible to traditional approaches,” shared CEO Mark DePristo, PhD. “Our work with NIST will help BigHat benchmark and further improve our technologies for data-driven antibody design.
About BigHat Biosciences
BigHat Biosciences is an early-stage Bay Area startup reimagining antibody discovery and engineering to create better antibodies faster and undertake novel designs far beyond what's possible today. BigHat designs antibodies using an agile, multi-objective, and data-driven platform that integrates a high-speed wet lab with AI and machine learning. Founded in 2019, BigHat Biosciences counts among its founders, employees, and advisors world-leading experts in machine learning and artificial intelligence, computational biology, software engineering, and drug development. BigHat’s investors include 8VC, AME Cloud Ventures, and Innovation Endeavors. Learn more at www.bighatbio.com.
NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology), a nonregulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life. To learn more about NIST, visit NIST.gov.
September 15, 2020
Amgen and MBC BioLabs announced today that BigHat Biosciences has been awarded a 2020 Amgen Golden Ticket to MBC BioLabs.
BigHat was chosen by a team of scientific leaders who evaluated the strength and novelty of our scientific rationale, subject matter expertise, and business plan viability.
Flavius Martin, vice president of Oncology, Inflammation and Site Head at Amgen South San Francisco, said "BigHat Biosciences [...] is working on promising early-stage innovation that address serious illnesses such as cancer, autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases, and others [...] We are happy to support their scientific efforts as they tackle complex research challenges that potentially address critical unmet medical needs for patients. Congratulations to both companies and their scientific entrepreneurs.”
BigHat will use Amgen's support for our facility at MBC BioLabs and access to their biologics R&D group to help accelerate its mission to radically improve antibody design using the latest techniques in machine learning and synthetic biology.
BigHat joins Golden Ticket winners Trilo Therapeutics (2020), Regencor and Nitrome Biosciences (2019), Delve Therapeutics and Mitokinin (2018), Darmiyan and Enable Biosciences (2017), and Mission Bio and SiteOne Therapeutics.
August 12, 2020
BigHat co-founder Peyton Greenside joins a panel discussion, along other leaders from Silicon Valley Bank, Civilization Ventures, Pivotal Bioventure Partners, BioRock Ventures, to discuss: Is this The Lost Year for Startups, or the Year of Greatest Opportunity?
2020 has brought renewed focus to the promise of biotech and the ability of novel therapeutics to meet society's urgent needs. It has also highlighted the current limits of science, the fragility of our health care system, and the long process from R&D to market for new drugs. What does this all mean for you and your startup, and how will you thrive amidst the uncertainty? Our expert VC/CEO panelists weigh in with concrete advice and stories from the trenches.
July 18, 2020
BigHat founder Peyton Greenside and BigHat consultant Vivek Myers presented their work A Hierarchical Approach to Scaling Batch Active Search Over Structured Data at the ICML Workshop on Real World Experiment Design and Active Learning. The method enables efficient, large-batch search over a structured set of protein or DNA sequences by combining deep representation learning with a hierarchical search strategy. It balances broad exploration over unobserved sequence space with more greedy local search where promising sequences have been identified. These innovations were possible by taking advantage of the natural emergent structure in a large corpus of related biological sequences to help guide experimental design in a high-throughput setting.
June 9, 2020
BigHat founder and CEO Mark DePristo spoke at the European Society for Human Genetics 2020 Conference. Watch the talk A Guide to Deep Learning in Healthcare on BigHat's YouTube channel or review just the slides.
April 30, 2020
BigHat founder Peyton Greenside joins Insitro team member to lead working session with Stanford's Accel Innovation Scholars on building and leading interdisciplinary teams.
December 4, 2019
BigHat founder Peyton Greenside helps select the best poster at the Cell Free Systems Conference in Boston, MA.
November 11, 2019
BigHat founder Peyton Greenside moderates Innovation Endeavors' Deep Life Salon panel between biotech founders and pharmaceutical partners from Novozymes and Novo Nordisk on commercializing research.
October 30, 2019