Innovation Endeavors doles out first investment in the Joel Dudley era, with seed funding for a small molecule startup
Joel Dudley recently joined the team at the investment firm Innovation Endeavors, started by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, in August with a mission to invest deeply in the biotech world. And now, several weeks after bringing him on, the firm has made its latest such investment and the first with Dudley on board.
Innovation Endeavors has led an $8 million seed round in Harmonic Discovery, the firm announced Thursday morning. Dudley will also join the company’s board.
In an interview with Endpoints News, Harmonic Discovery CEO Rayees Rahman said that Dudley connected with the company just after its founding in 2021, having met through a mutual contact. Dudley was also a part of Rahman’s PhD committee, so he began mentoring the company around that time.
Rahman said that Harmonic Discovery is building a platform to design small molecule drugs that can target multiple proteins at the same time, through building a kinase discovery platform and utilizing machine learning to help with the process.
“A lot of modern drug discovery is really focused on finding single targets, single proteins that are mutated or dysregulated that cause disease, when in reality, most times diseases are caused by a constellation of different proteins…and there’s not a lot of computational platforms that enable this type of drug discovery,” Rahman said to Endpoints.
The initial funds will go toward three major areas: building out the leadership team, expanding its laboratory capacity in Tucson, AZ, and funding drug discovery efforts through augmenting its chemical libraries.
Rahman also said that while more funding through a Series A is not out of the cards, it may take a few years before Harmonic Discovery takes the plunge. Rahman said by the time the Series A process starts, he wants to grow the team from eight to 10 employees. And while the company also hasn’t zeroed in on a lead candidate just yet, he hopes to have something in the pipeline before a Series A.
As for what sets biotech apart from the ever-growing number of biotechs using machine learning, Rahman said that the company has strong fundamentals in biology.
“We’re really deeply knowledgeable about protein kinases, their structural biology and machine learning involved to train models and understand protein kinases. So, we’re very focused on solving this one specific problem,” Rahman said.
Rahman also states that they are not treating the machine learning aspect as a one-size-fits-all model and are taking a broader approach to discovery.
Other investors in the round include Fifty Years, Y Combinator, Boom Capital and Caffeinated Capital, along with other angel investors.
As for Dudley, a former CSO at a biotech startup and a member of the team that investigated Theranos’ blood tests, he had previously told Endpoints that he is bullish on recent developments in the biotech world and was eager for Innovation Endeavors to be more involved. He has been tasked with bringing the company closer to the biotech world.