Mercia Ventures has led a £1.8m seed financing round into the Cambridge-based AI drug-finding startup Kuano.
To uncover new drugs Kuano has found a way to monitor enzymes – a biological catalyst – in their dynamic state, as opposed to the conventional method of analysing them in their resting state.
Dysfunctional enzymes are often an indicator of disease and are a target for drugs.
Scientists can use Kuano’s “quantum simulation platform” to view enzymes in their dynamic state and then use AI to estimate the ideal drug form.
Vid Stojevic, CEO and co-founder of Kuano, said: “Enzymes play a wide-ranging role in disease, but current technologies are unable to develop drugs to tackle most of them.”
A problem with relying on resting state research is one type of enzyme may act similarly to another. This means drugs can unintentionally target other enzymes too, which could adversely impact the treatment’s safety and efficacy.
“Our platform creates a ‘quantum lens’ that reveals the difference between enzymes and allows us to target each one individually, without affecting the others,” Stojevic explained.
The CEO said the seed will support more lab research and add team members to its leadership team.
Kuano’s seed additionally saw ACF Investors, Ascension Ventures, o2h Ventures, Meltwind Advisory LLP and angels take part.
Jarryl D’Oyley, Parminder Ruprah, David Wright and Stojevic co-founded the startup in 2020.
“Fewer than 20% of enzymes have so far been targeted by drugs because of the difficulty in understanding their dynamic states,” said Robert Hornby from Mercia Ventures.
“Kuano’s quantum simulation platform goes beyond existing AI models and means they can design drugs for previously ‘undruggable’ enzymes.”