July 9, 2020
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Menten.AI’s combination of buzzword bingo brings AI and quantum computing to drug discovery – TechCrunch

Menten.AI’s combination of buzzword bingo brings AI and quantum computing to drug discovery – TechCrunch

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Menten A.I. It has an impressive founding team and a field that combines some of the hottest technology trends to pursue one of the biggest health challenges – the discovery of new drugs. The company is also up $ 4 million more through initial investments by companies such as Uncork Capital and Khosla Ventures to grow their business.

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According to company co-founder Hans Melo, Menten AI’s contribution to investors was a combination of quantum computing and machine learning to discover new drugs that are between small molecules and large biologicals.

A graduate of the Y Combinator accelerator, who also participated in the round, A. Menten develops proteins from scratch. This is harder than you might expect, because, as Melo said in an interview, it takes a lot of work to create a real drug.

Menten AI works with peptides, which are chains of amino acid chains that are similar to proteins that can slow down aging, reduce inflammation and get rid of pathogens in the body.

“As a medicine [peptides] completely new, ”says Melo. “Until recently, it was very difficult to develop them computationally, and people tried to focus on their genetic modification.”

According to Melo, peptides have the advantage of penetrating through membranes and into cells, where they can combine with targets that are too large for small molecules.

According to Melo, most drug targets are not available for either small molecules or biological products, which means that there is a huge untapped potential market for peptide therapy.

Menten AI is already working on the drug COVID-19, although the young CEO of the company refused to reveal too many details about it. Another area of ​​interest is neurological disorders, where members of the founding team have some experience.

Image of peptide molecules. Image provided by: D wave

While the goals of Menten AI are interesting, the company’s approach using quantum computing to potentially reduce costs and accelerate market entry is equally compelling to investors.

It is also unproven. There are currently no advantages over using new computing technology compared to traditional computing. That Melo freely admits.

“We do not declare a quantum advantage, but we do not declare a quantum disadvantage,” the young entrepreneur believes. “We came up with another way to solve the problem, which can scale better. We have not proven an advantage. ”

However, the company is an early indicator of the types of services that quantum computing can offer, and with this in mind, Menten AI has partnered with some of the leading independent quantum computing companies, D-Wave and Rigetti Computing, to work on their applications technology.

The emphasis on quantum computing also sets them apart from larger publicly traded competitors such as Schrödinger and Codexis.

As is the pedigree of its founder, according to Uncork Capital investor Jeff Clavier. “ItThis is a truly unique team that they have formed, ”Clavier said of his decision to invest in an early stage company. “There is Hans … the CEO, who is more on the quantum side; there tamas [Gorbe] on the bio side and there is Vikram [Mulligan] who developed the study. This is a kind of unique fantastic team that came together to work on an opportunity. ”

The clavier also acknowledged the possibility that this might not work.

Can they really produce anything interesting at the end? he asked. “This is still an early stage company, and we may lose consciousness, or they may offer truly new ways to produce new peptides.”

It would probably be nice to bet on Melo, who worked with Mulligan, a researcher at the Flatiron Institute, specializing in computational biology, to conduct some early research on the creation of new peptides using D-Wave quantum computing.

New peptide structures created using D-Wave quantum computers. Image provided by: D wave

While Melo and Mulligan were the first researchers working on the technology to become Menten AI, Gorbé was added to the founding team to introduce the company to the world of chemistry and enzymatic applications for his new virtual protein technology.

Gambling has paid off in the form of pilot projects (also not disclosed) that focus on the development of enzymes for agricultural use and pharmaceuticals.

“In the end, they use cutting-edge computing to figure out how to best position these clinical compounds so that they are less based on these sensitive tests and more related to these theories.” said the clavier.

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