Back in the Manifold: George Church-founded protein therapeutics biotech tacks on $40M in series A funds

Almost two years after launching, George Church-founded Manifold Bio has raised a $40 million series A to continue development of its protein barcode system and advance a number of oncology programs.

The latest haul, announced Thursday, will continue to fund the development of the company’s “barcoding technology,” a platform designed to make preclinical testing of proteins more efficient. In essence, the company wants to assign barcodes to thousands of proteins so they’re easier to track in drug development and can be tested on animals simultaneously.

The company is already off to the races, working on a number of internal programs in oncology, particularly focused on addressing solid tumors, CEO Gleb Kuznetsov, Ph.D., told Fierce Biotech in an interview. He pointed to the progress the biotech made while fundraising and said the company is now deciding which programs to prioritize. 

“We have a few internal programs that could become a lead,” he said. “But that's sort of the power of the technology, and we can broadly prioritize lots of different programs.”

The platform was born out of the Harvard lab of biotech entrepreneur George Church, Ph.D., along with Kuznetsov and Chief Scientific Officer Pierce Ogden, Ph.D. A blog post by the company says the two were drawn to the famed geneticist’s “vision to increase the scale at which we could read and write biology.” Church runs the synthetic biology team at the Wyss Institute, a Boston-based incubator of sorts set up by Harvard University. Church also helped launch the Human Genome Project, and the attachment of such an influential figure seems to have done Manifold no harm in its formative years. 

So far, investors seem intrigued. Kuznetsov said the company had originally planned to raise $25 million but had to ultimately turn away interested investors, an anecdote that runs contrary to the doom-and-gloom bear market reports that have punctured VC investment in the sector this year. “We decided to raise a little more because … we get a little further with our programs, it gives us a little more ability to weather what's about to happen in the market,” he said.

The series A follows a smaller $5.4 million seed round when the company launched in 2020 led by Playground Global. Triatomic Capital took the lead on the latest round and, as a result, Jeff Huber, general partner at the firm, will hop on Manifold’s board. Huber is the former CEO of Grail and co-founded Alphabet’s (then Google’s) life science work.