Chilean biotech firm Protera moves to Paris, closes $5.6M in Series A funding6 Jul 2020
The AI-driven bioscience startup Protera closed a $5.6 million round of funding on June 10, that was led by Sofinnova Partners, a European life sciences venture capital firm. There was also participation from an existing venture capital investor, SOSV.
In addition to closing a new funding round to support the commercialization of Protera’s protein ingredient portfolio and help develop its clan-label protein that extends shelf-life and replaces chemically derived ingredients, the company announced that it is relocating to Paris, France.
The move will bring the company geographically closer to its principal investor as well as help Protera scale and take advantage of the European community where some of the world’s largest enzyme producers are based. This is especially true in the City of Light where there is particular expertise in fermentation and enzyme production. Despite its relocation across the Atlantic, the firm told Food Navigator that it will first be pursuing the regulatory processes for its genetically modified proteins outside of the European Union in the United States and Latin America.
The genetically modified protein ingredients that the biotech firm produces are intended to replace the chemicals that are conventionally used. Currently, Protera Sense is on the market and serves to both improve the texture of CPG products and mitigate the need for palm oil or trans-fatty acids. In the near future, the company hopes to release Protera Guard, which is a protein that replaces chemical preservatives and can help extend a product's microbial-free shelf-life for up to 20 days with the goal of reaching a 30-day shelf-life without packaging.
“We throw away one-third of the food we produce every year worldwide, and one of the main reasons is microbial contamination,” said Leonardo Álvarez, CEO and co-founder of the company in a statement. "This financing will enable us to scale up Protera Guard, a protein that provides people with food that lasts longer, and which replaces widely used chemical ingredients with an efficient natural alternative.” Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 has extended the timeline to the commercialization of this product and there is no confirmed release date.
To design and develop these new proteins, Protera developed MADI, a deep learning algorithm. The technology predicts the shape of amino acid chains that compose proteins. The structure of each protein determines its function and the efficacy with which it can be performed. Traditional systems individually test proteins and can take months to identify a specific trait whereas MADI can analyze 40 years of protein data to analyze the shape and function of known proteins and predict which structures contribute to properties such as texture, flavor and shelf-life. Álvarez told Food Navigator that Protera can analyze billions of protein combinations daily.
While the company continues to prioritize the development of its Protera Guard protein, the innovation is only in the pilot stage. Simultaneously, the biotech company is continuing to engineer proteins to expand manufacturers’ future access to a whole new universe of capabilities.
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