The Impact of the IPD

Founded by Dr. David Baker in 2012, the mission of the Institute for Protein Design (IPD) is to design a new world of proteins that address 21st-century challenges in medicine, energy, and technology. We have trained hundreds of scientists at all levels, from high schoolers to visiting professors. IPD-trained faculty are now working independently in 17 countries, and our current collaborative projects now span 27 countries. See the first map below for the hometown locations of current IPD scientists and staff who have come from around the world to advance protein design. The second map shows the current locations of former graduate students and postdoctoral researchers who are now faculty at other institutions.

Rosetta, the core computer program that enables all of our research, was created in the laboratory of David Baker, Director of the IPD. The global community of Rosetta developers, known as the RosettaCommons, has grown by an average of 106 members annually since 2013. With 70 active commercial licenses and more than 30,000 active academic licenses, improvements to Rosetta automatically benefit a growing, global community of scientists.

We have enlisted volunteer citizen-scientists by developing Rosetta@Home, which allows anyone with a computer or smartphone to participate in our research. Our Rosetta software is now running calculations on nearly a billion computing devices worldwide, requiring ~10% of the UW’s internet bandwidth. Soon after we started the Rosetta@home project, contributors watching representations of origami-like protein folding calculations on their screens became curious themselves and wanted to see if they could help solve protein challenges. So we created Foldit, a multiplayer online game where thousands of volunteers compete to solve new protein folding puzzles — everything from the structure of viral proteins to designs for food poisoning cures.

FoldIt: Growth and player activity

Spinouts

We ask ourselves: If we design a new protein in the laboratory, how can that technology best serve humanity? For example, if we make proteins that slice up other proteins with precision, can we create an enzyme that degrades gluten and thereby prevents celiac disease? If we can design proteins that remain active at high temperatures, can we eliminate the need for refrigeration in the global vaccine supply chain? Or, if we can design protein switches, can we create new cell therapies that sense and respond to their surroundings? Naturally, every protein design breakthrough leads to the need to raise capital to pursue translational and commercialization efforts.

Since 2012, the Baker lab and IPD have spun out eight biotechnology companies. In the last two years, these companies collectively raised more than $150 million to advance downstream applications of protein design. These spinouts help ensure that the IPD’s breakthroughs translate into real-world impact.

  • Arzeda: protein design for synthetic biological production of valuable chemicals.
  • Cyrus Biotechnology: Rosetta software as a cloud computing service for the biopharmaceutical industry.
  • PvP Biologics: a gluten-busting enzymes for celiac disease.
  • Virvio: designed proteins that block the flu virus.
  • Icosavax: new vaccines for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a deadly virus affecting newborns and the elderly, and more.
  • Neoleukin Therapeutics: designed proteins that mimic the function of interleukin-2 (IL-2) and other natural cancer- fighting proteins.
  • A-Alpha Bio: fundamentally changing the way that protein interactions are measured through a new technology called AlphaSeq.
  • Sana Biotechnologyengineered cells as a new class of therapies for medical applications outside the field cancer.

 

Map 1: Home town locations of current IPD scientists

Home town locations of all scientific researchers, and staff of current IPD affiliate labs (Baker, King, DiMaio, Gu, Bradley, and IPD Core Labs)

 

Map 2: Former Baker Lab members now faculty at other institutions

Former Baker lab postdocs or graduate students who are now faculty at other institutions world wide.