Today, we are announcing that Cyrus Biotechnology, has been successfully launched from the UW Institute for Protein Design (IPD) to pursue commercialization of an innovative user friendly software as a service (SaaS) cloud computing solution for distribution of the powerful “Rosetta” protein structure prediction and design algorithms.
“Cyrus is the first new IPD spin out, graduating from the IPD’s Translational Research program in less than 12 months from inception,” said Dr. David Baker, Director of the IPD. Cyrus is building a custom-designed protein modeling and design GUI, automating complex user procedures and deploying on the cloud to customers in Pharma, Biotech and the Chemical industries.
The company’s name was inspired by Cyrus Levinthal’s famous paradox, that most small proteins fold spontaneously on short time scales of less than a millisecond, despite there being are a very large number of degrees of freedom in an unfolded protein chain of amino acids, leading to an astronomical number of possible conformations that may need to be sampled before folding into a low energy conformation. The Rosetta suite of algorithms that originated over 15 years ago at the UW, now with a team of over 100+ programmers contributing to the Rosetta Commons, in many cases solves Levinthal’s paradox.
The IPD initiated its Translational Investigator program in April 2014 with $1.4 M in Opportunity Grant funding from the Life Science Discovery Fund (LSDF) and matching commitments of $5.2 M from the UW, Washington Research Foundation, and the generosity of local philanthropists. In addition to the Cyrus project, IPD Translational Investigator research programs include an oral therapeutic for celiac disease, flu viral therapeutics and diagnostics, and others in development. The Translational Investigator research programs enable talented postdoctoral fellows and graduate students to apply protein design research towards the challenge of real world problems, transitioning protein design research discoveries into Seattle area startup companies. The combination of LSDF Opportunity Grant funding with philanthropist matching funds is being applied to several ongoing translational projects.
“With our LSDF funding, matching grants from philanthropists, and funding from the National Science Foundation I-Corps program, the IPD was able to support the Cyrus co-founder team from the inception of concept to launch of a new Seattle area startup company, all in collaboration with CoMotion and several stakeholders,” said Dr. Lance Stewart, Senior Director of Strategy for the IPD, who also serves as a mentor and advisor to the Translational Investigators.
The Cyrus translational project was conceived in April 2014 by Dr. Lucas Nivon, then a postdoctoral fellow in the Baker lab, together with two other Baker lab members, Dr. Yifan Song who at the time was a postdoc/acting instructor and Javier Castellanos who at the time was in his final year as a graduate student. Shortly after having conceived of the Cyrus concept, the co-founding team incorporated Cyrus and secured meetings with the W-Fund and the local WINGS angel investor network; together these investors have capitalized the IPD spin out with $850K in seed financing.
Throughout their 12 month incubation period, the Cyrus team completed the NSF I-Corps program, developed a prototype of the Cyrus platform, and worked with the UW CoMotion technology transfer office (Dr. Jennifer McCullar and Dr. Dennis Hanson, Senior Technology Managers) and the Rosetta Commons to secure the required intellectual property licensures needed to pursue the Cyrus business model.
“Dr. Jennifer McCullar was instrumental in working with RosettaCommons and CoMotion to facilitate our license negotiations,” said Dr. Lucas Nivon, CEO and Co-Founder of Cyrus. “Our company intends to change the way drugs are discovered by biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, from a wet lab intensive effort to a computer-aided-design (CAD) engineering task enabled by cloud based Rosetta drug design and discovery.”
The last day of work at the UW for Lucas, Yifan, and Javier was May 1, 2015, when they transitioned to the Cyrus facilities in WeWork at South Lake Union. We wish them the very best.
Read the UW CoMotion press release here.