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3 August, 2022 - 12:00 By Tony Quested

Gates Foundation helps Eleven Therapeutics take seed funding to $22m

Cambridge company Eleven Therapeutics, which is leading the AI revolution in nucleic acid therapeutics, has now raised a total of $22 million in seed funding after a recent top-up.

Eleven, which is also based in Boston US and Tel Aviv, is harnessing the power of combinatorial chemistry and AI to transform RNAi drug development into a programmable process.

Among its funders is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which committed $9m – including $5m towards future equity investment. This supports the development of a first-of-its-kind platform that designs small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) with ultra-long durability.

Eleven's platform aims to decipher the Structure-Activity Relationship (SAR) of siRNAs. The number of possible molecular compositions is staggeringly high, exceeding the number of grains of sand on earth. 

The platform solves this challenge by generating functional data about the activity profile of an unprecedented scale of siRNA molecules in parallel. 

In order to unlock the rules of SAR, the team is developing a robust deep learning framework. Ultimately, this proprietary, patent-protected, massively parallel screening platform will systematically identify the best combination of building blocks for therapeutic candidates.

“Eleven's new platform addresses a long-standing challenge in RNAi,” said Dr Greg Hannon, Director of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute at the University of Cambridge, scientific co-founder of Eleven and one of the world's leading pioneers in RNAi. 

“The potential chemical space for optimising these molecules is absolutely massive. Eleven's solution will map this space by generating unprecedented amounts of data, which can then be leveraged by AI. 

“We are thrilled about this new funding and the vote of confidence by our investors that it represents.”

An additional $4 million from the Gates Foundation was awarded as a non-dilutive grant furthering Eleven's development of prophylactics against endemic and pandemic-poised respiratory viruses. 

Importantly, the Gates Foundation's funding will promote wide accessibility of Eleven's ultimate treatments to people in need in developing countries. 

The company also has a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the Vaccine Research Centre of the NIAID.

Professor Yaniv Erlich, co-founder and CEO of Eleven Therapeutics, said: “The future equity investment and grant funding from the Gates Foundation propels our revolutionary efforts of mapping the chemical space of oligonucleotide therapeutics. 

“Our platforms pave the way for the discovery of groundbreaking RNAi therapeutics and prophylactics against some of the most devastating diseases of our time.”

• Additional funding sources include Kindred Capital; NFX Bio (formerly TechBio); Harel Technology Investments; Entrée Capital and the Innovate UK Smart Grant.

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