Protai, an Israeli AI-powered drug discovery start-up, today announced its emergence from stealth, along with an $8 million seed financing round co-led by Grove Ventures and Pitango HealthTech.

Understanding diseases' molecular mechanisms

Despite the significant contribution of genome-level information to the efforts of drug R&D, this information fails to represent the functional layer of the cell reflected and dominated by proteins. This lack of functional understanding of a disease’s molecular mechanisms is one of the main shortcomings of the current drug discovery and development process. Generally, the processes of drug development have become particularly popular since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Protai has built an end-to-end AI-based platform that comprehensively maps the course of a disease on the protein level, enhancing the ability to observe cellular function and thereby improving the way new drugs are discovered. This effective approach enables Protai to increase accuracy in drug discovery and improve the development process, substantially saving time and lowering the costs of R&D. By enabling the viewing of new layers of disease biology on the protein level, Protai is fundamentally reshaping the drug discovery and development process.

Protai has been able to establish a baseline to accurately simulate biological functional processes for a variety of diseases and accelerate drug R&D through clinical and preclinical stages. They can do so because they created the world’s largest and most diverse proteomic database with over 50,000 clinical samples. They simply harmonized large clinical datasets, as well as samples from various healthy organs and indications, and voilà- they now have the means to continue drug discovery with proteomics and artificial intelligence. By unlocking new layers of biological insights and in turn combating complex diseases, Protai’s platform has made a leap in solving how drug candidates are created and validated, facilitating quicker and more advanced drug discovery.

Credit: Protai

The seed funding will be used to further develop Protai’s platform, accelerate its discovery programs and enhance its partnerships with pharmaceutical companies. It will help them enhance their proteomics-based platform so that they can provide faster and more accurate drug discovery.

“Protai’s platform is like a unique compass for directing drug discovery,” said Eran Seger, CEO and co-founder of Protai. “We are systematically mapping diseases on the protein level to create an entirely new layer of functional information which enables us to identify therapeutic and diagnostic targets to better combat a wide range of complex diseases.” Ittai Harel, General Partner at Pitango Venture Capital, continued, saying, “Protai is leading a paradigm shift in proteomics-based drug discovery by creating a new class of high-quality data that was previously not available to drug researchers and development professionals. We are proud to support the founders and the company, as we expect its advanced technology to promote effective novel drug and biomarker development.”

Portai founders Kirill Pevzner and Eran Seger. Credit: Protai

Protai was founded in 2021 by Eran Seger and Kirill Pevzner, both experienced entrepreneurs and tech executives, and alumni of the Israeli intelligence cyber corps. Protai’s Advisory Board includes world-renowned proteomics and machine learning researchers including, Prof. Tami Geiger, an expert in cancer proteomics research at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Professor Alexey Nesvizhskii, a global leader in computational proteomics from the University of Michigan and Prof. Avi Ma’ayan, the Director of the Mount Sinai Center for Bioinformatics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and an expert in the application of machine learning for drug discovery.