Months after adding $60M to coffers, AI startup Terray nabs discovery pact with Google's Calico
A small California biotech emerged from stealth last year to go after drug discovery’s “data problem,” and now the AI outfit has announced its first public partnership.
Terray Therapeutics put out word Wednesday that it reached a deal with Calico Life Sciences, the Google-backed anti-aging biotech co-founded by industry legend, billionaire and current CEO Art Levinson, the former head over at Genentech and current chairman at Apple.
The premise of the deal, Terray CEO Jacob Berlin tells Endpoints News, is that Terray will be using its AI drug discovery platform with certain targets that Calico is looking at, identifying potential lead compounds in-house that could be further out-licensed to Calico. Then, Calico would assume responsibility for development and commercialization.
While Terray would not disclose specific targets, the biotech will be looking at “diseases of aging,” citing one of those diseases as cancer. Financial specifics remain unknown, but Terray will receive a payment upfront and remain eligible for milestones and potential royalties on net sales, per a statement.
Jacob Berlin said that Terray and Calico have already been in discussions for some time before the deal was set.
“As we had those discussions, I think both sides really saw the opportunity here to pair their selection of targets and their expertise in aging-related diseases with our chemical discovery engine,” Jacob Berlin said, adding that “we’re excited to get going with them.”
As a former associate professor at the City of Hope, Jacob Berlin had started work on Terray’s platform more than six years before Terray spun out of City of Hope in October 2018. Terray’s platform features nickel-sized chips, with 32 million wells that can hold one molecule per well. Then, Terray can screen these molecules against potential targets in a matter of minutes, reporting that data to machine learning models and predicting which molecules should go forward for additional screening.
This is not Terray’s only partnership, Jacob Berlin noted — saying that there are ongoing partnerships with certain biotech and pharma companies. However, those remain undisclosed. And in the meantime, Terray will be working on its own internal pipeline, which is currently focused on immunology.
While Jacob Berlin is the CEO, he brought his older brother, Eli, on board as CFO and COO.
Calico has been around since 2013, with now ex-Google superstar (and GV founder) Bill Maris as its first CEO. It had inked deals with other companies/research groups in its early days, such as AbbVie, Broad Institute and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging.
And while Calico employed some of the top scientists in the initial years after its founding, it lost two of its highest profile researchers in late 2017 and early 2018: R&D chief Hal Barron (who left to run R&D at GSK before leaving for his CEO position at secretive anti-aging outfit Altos Labs) and AI chief Daphne Koller, who went on to found insitro and is currently CEO.
Calico’s CBO Jonathan Lewis wrote in a statement that Calico looks forward to partnering with the team at Terray.
Terray emerged earlier this year after spending three years in stealth — coming out swinging with a $60 million Series A round led by Madrona Venture Group. Other investors included Two Sigma Ventures, Digitalis Ventures, KdT Ventures, Goldcrest Capital, XTX Ventures, Sahsen Ventures, Greentrail Capital and Alexandria Venture Investments.