Our Audacious Idea

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The world is on the verge of a protein design revolution. Soon, new medicines and materials will be programmed on computers and produced inside living cells, leveraging the full scale and sustainability of biology.

To accelerate this, we have drawn inspiration from a previous technological revolution—the digital revolution—which took place in large part because of discoveries that happen in one place: Bell LaboratoriesThe open, collaborative environment of Bell Labs and its ability to attract top talent from around the world led to a long string of remarkable discoveries: the transistor, lasers, satellite communication and the foundations of the internet.

We are building the Bell Labs of protein design.

In 2019, we received a funding commitment through The Audacious Project, a philanthropic collaboration that surfaces and funds projects with the potential to change the world.

As a result, we are expanding our team of scientists and engineers who will work together to advance Rosetta, our protein design software. This funding will also allow us to invest in the equipment, supplies and lab space needed to design and test millions of synthetic proteins.

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“We created The Audacious Project to give lift-off to some of the world’s most transformative projects — the ones with the potential to revolutionize entire fields,” said Anna Verghese, executive director of The Audacious Project. “The Institute for Protein Design has been a long-standing pioneer in computational protein design. Now, with a solid blueprint in place and support through The Audacious Project, the IPD will venture to accelerate the pace of discovery, disseminate new protein technology, and fundamentally change how drugs, vaccines, fuels and new materials are made.”

Our Five Grand Challenges

1. Building better vaccines for pathogens such as the flu:

2. Expanding beyond nature’s alphabet of 20 amino acids:

3. Creating advanced protein containers for targeted drug delivery:

4. Designing “smart” protein systems that can identify cancerous or otherwise unhealthy cells:


5. Making next-generation nanomaterials for use in solar energy capture and nanofabrication:

About The Audacious Project

The Audacious Project was launched in April 2018, with a mission to foster “collaborative philanthropy for bold ideas.” Housed at TED (the nonprofit devoted to ideas worth spreading) and operated with support from The Bridgespan Group (which consults with nonprofits and investors to accelerate impact), The Audacious Project brings together some of the most respected organizations and individuals in philanthropy — the Skoll Foundation, Virgin Unite, Dalio Foundation and more. The Audacious Project surfaces and funds critical projects with the potential to create global change. By removing barriers associated with funding, The Audacious Project empowers social entrepreneurs to dream boldly and take on the world’s biggest and most urgent challenges.

Support leveraged via The Audacious Project was made possible through the generosity of Laura and John Arnold, Steve and Genevieve Jurvetson, Chris Larsen and Lyna Lam, Lyda Hill Philanthropies, Miguel McKelvey, the Clara Wu and Joe Tsai Foundation, Rosamund Zander and Hansjörg Wyss for the Wyss Foundation, and several anonymous donors.

Learn more at AudaciousProject.org.

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