A Recursion veteran is mapping plant life to chart a course to new therapies — and investors like what they see
One of the earliest employees at AI biotech Recursion Pharmaceuticals is leading a new company, and he’s just closed a hefty Series A to get things moving.
Enveda Biosciences pulled in $51 million in the raise, the company announced Tuesday morning, with the goal of pushing some of its preclinical programs further along. Led by CEO Viswa Colluru, Enveda aims to research how machine learning can utilize natural biology to create new therapies for Wilson’s Disease, NASH and Parkinson’s disease, among others.
Tuesday’s financing was led by Lux Capital.
Colluru got his start at Recursion back in 2016 when the now-IPO’ed biotech was still a fledgling player. Though he tells Endpoints News he’s always had a curiosity for plant biology, working with Chris Gibson gave him “the fastest crash course” in biotech one can get.
That curiosity led him to what he feels is the central problem Enveda is now trying to solve: Humans have been creating medicines from plants across cultures for more than 50,000 years, but plant chemical space is still vastly underexplored.
“I got the opportunity to learn everything from building and scaling a company to entering biotech with a new idea,” Colluru said. “I feel like I’ve been preparing for it my whole life. What Recursion did was enable the skill sets to try something new and be OK if it failed.”
Now with Enveda, Colluru set his sights on mapping out nature’s biology. One of Enveda’s biggest undertakings has been creating a high-resolution map to study the chemistry of plants and learn how to extract potential new medicines. Highlighting how aspirin, statins and morphine all came from the natural world, Colluru says Enveda uses this map to speed along such discovery processes.
The company says it has the largest integrated dataset of plant chemistry out there, one that’s constantly being fed back into their algorithms to continue discovery work. These machine learning processes function like a search engine, Colluru says, reading the “language of chemistry” through mass spectra. It allows Enveda to catalog, annotate and analyze plant biology in order to more fully understand potential links for drug R&D.
It’s here where the pipeline comes into play, as Enveda preps two of its four programs, one for Wilson’s Disease and NASH and the other for Parkinson’s, to continue preclinical development. Colluru isn’t putting a timeline on when these candidates might hit the clinic, but noted Tuesday’s raise gives Enveda enough runway for the next 24 months.
But the biotech is seeking to differentiate itself by honing in on this intersection between machine learning, metabolomics and natural products. It’s all thanks to the map and search engine combo, which has driven the investor excitement behind Enveda, Colluru says.
“We’re unique in terms of positioning that way, but also in terms of actual work,” he said. “A lot of machine learning companies, originally the learning was with their own custom datasets. Now, there are new and unique ways to generate those datasets. We’re using our library to probe new regions of chemistry.”
In addition to Lux, Enveda saw new investment from Two Sigma Ventures, Hummingbird VC, Catalio Capital, Lifeforce Capital and Matthew De Silva of Notable Labs, along with existing investors True Ventures, Wireframe Ventures, Village Global and Chris Gibson of Recursion.