Atomwise Inc, a company that applies deep learning to drug discovery, has raised a $45 million Series A.
But before they were in San Francisco, the company was founded in 2012 by University of Toronto alumni Abraham Heifets and Izhar Wallach. The pair had developed deep learning algorithms that simulates the interactions between molecules and drug target proteins. This saves researchers from synthesizing and testing molecules in a lab, reducing the cost and development time of drug discovery.
While their technology was developed using the expertise gained from their research, the two cofounders joined Techno2012 to learn the foundations for moving their technology to the market. Not only did the founders participate in the workshops and seminars of Techno, but Atomwise leveraged many of the other resources at the University of Toronto to support their success.
Dr. Wallach was the first recipient of the Impact Centre Innovation Fellowship, which provided him a stipend so he could focus on developing the company. The company’s first office was located in the University of Toronto’s Best Institute. And the Impact Centre’s TechnoStorm brainstorming events were the foundation of two successful Grand Challenges Canada Stars in Global Health Awards, which brought over $200,000 to the early-stage company.
Beyond the Impact Centre, the company performed many of their early calculations on the SOSCIP computer cluster through a program of the Ontario Centres of Excellence. Once the company had shown traction with their technology, they briefly participated in the Creative Destruction Lab and eventually was accepted into the YCombinator accelerator in California.
Now, the company’s clients include some of the biggest pharmaceutical and agricultural companies in the United States, including Merck and Monsanto, as well as more than 40 major research universities and biotech firms. They are working on projects spanning infectious disease, oncology, and multiple sclerosis, hoping to accelerate the development of new treatments.
Atomwise is a prime example of how to support the movement of university-based discovery into society. It takes a village, a connected “smart” village, to raise a startup.
A look back at Atomwise (then Chematria) during Techno2012 and the Techno Showcase at MaRS.