Switzerland, Jun 30, 2022 – Molecule, a comprehensive funding and incubation ecosystem for early-stage biopharma research, announced this week they raised $12.7 million in seed funding. The round was led by Northpond Ventures with participation from Shine Capital, 1kx, Fifty Years, KdT Ventures, BACKED VC, Inflection VC, Chris Leiter, Balaji Srinivasan, Zee Prime Capital, The LAO, L1 Digital, Boom Capital, Compound VC, Koji Capital, Pillar VC, Seedclub Ventures, Speedinvest, Healthspan Capital, BoxGroup and many others.
While the biopharma industry has come a long way, many challenges remain, such as difficulty in aligning incentives of key stakeholders. Additionally, while many therapeutics are discovered in academic labs, funding in academia is preferentially allocated to established researchers and research fields, to the detriment of early career researchers and higher risk projects. The result is an ecosystem where potentially impactful research goes unfunded, and incentives for collaboration are often missing.
Molecule aims to address these incentive problems and funding gaps. They are creating an open ecosystem that assists researchers in raising funds for impactful research projects in a community-driven way. With Molecule, diverse communities (including patient groups, researchers, VCs and pharma companies) can fund, own and govern therapeutic intellectual property. This provides novel incentives for collaboration, investment, and risk-sharing. The result is that communities, such as patient groups, can choose which projects get funded, and later own the therapeutics that treat their disease.
The Molecule ecosystem has three components:
1) Communities: A community of physicians, scientists, and patients collaborate to form funding groups in specific therapeutic areas e.g. rare diseases and Alzheimer’s disease.
2) The IP-NFT framework: this allows researchers to fundraise without needing to patent early or create a startup.
3) A marketplace: Molecule is building a marketplace for biotech IP. Researchers at any career stage submit projects for funding, increasing discoverability of neglected research areas, and addressing key funding gaps.
“Many of the most impactful therapeutics are discovered in academic labs, yet development and translation of these assets toward the clinic remains difficult. Molecule’s marketplace and IP-NFT framework will address many of the pain points inherent in the funding and commercialization of early-stage biotech IP, ultimately benefiting the most important stakeholder in the Molecule ecosystem – the patient. Northpond is excited to partner with Molecule and lead their seed round.” – Patrick Malone, MD PhD, Associate at Northpond Ventures.
Molecule: what’s to come
The capital raised will be used to grow their marketplace with hundreds of research projects, expand their team, build out their protocol and technology layer into an open infrastructure, and provide grants to patient-centric biotech DAOs to expand the DeSci ecosystem. They also hope to out-license the first NFT-based IP to industry, demonstrating for the first time patient-led translational drug development.
“Many of us are tired of hearing about NFT monkeys selling for millions. Molecule is using the NFT framework for something truly important: helping incredible scientific research transition from the lab bench to the benefit of all. Molecule’s work will help more life-saving drugs get to patients. That’s an application of web3 that’s easy to get excited about.”
Seth Bannon, Founding Partner at Fifty Years.
To truly decentralize adoption, they are also building accelerator frameworks for the friction-less launch of biotech DAOs targeting specific diseases of high unmet need, such as rare diseases and mental health. They see a future where scientists raise funds from incentive-aligned communities that wish to support them, and where patients themselves have governance over how therapeutics are researched, developed and accessed.
Their journey since inception
Since their pre-seed in early 2020, their team has grown to 22 members spread across the US, South-Africa and Europe, operating in a semi-remote fashion. Over these past few years, they have funded a first group of projects, and helped build the first biotech DAO – VitaDAO – which has deployed $2m+ to fund longevity research to date, including research at the Scheibye-Knudsen Lab (University of Copenhagen), Viktor Korolchuk’s Lab (University of Newcastle) and the Evandro Fang Lab (University of Oslo) all using Molecule’s IP-NFT framework.
“We believe that Molecule is a category defining project which will inspire a wave of innovators bringing the concept of collective ownership and liquid IP markets into various areas of R&D. We’re grateful for having been part of Molecule’s journey since inception and couldn’t be more excited about what’s to come.” – Alexander Lange, Founding GP at Inflection VC
Investors in this round:
Northpond Ventures, Shine Capital, 1kx, Fifty Years, The LAO, BACKED VC, ZeePrime Capital, L1 Digital, Seed Club Ventures, IDTheory, Andrew Keys, Compound VC, Pillar VC, Inflection VC, Protocol Labs, BoxGroup, KdT Ventures, IDTheory, Boom Capital, Gaingels, Cherry Ventures, Amino Collective, Chorus One, OrangeDAO, BeakerDAO, Kindergarten Ventures, Speedinvest, Bool Capital, Koji Capital, Healthspan Capital, Breyer Capital.
Chris Leiter, Zen Chu, Allison Duettman, Pamir Gelenbe, Katelyn Donnelly, Steve Wiggins, Balaji Srinivasan, Piers Kicks, Qiao Wang, Brian Fabian Crain, Scott Moore, Philipp Banhardt, Meher Roy, Ajay Rayasam, Angelo Tagliabue, Collin Myers, Jonas Keller, Garret MacDonald, Luis Cuende, Theodor Walker, Ronjon Nag, Alok Tayi, Laurence Ion, Todd White, Tim Peterson, Jahed Momand, Laurens De Poorter, Andrew Steinwold, Tim Schlidt, Justin Olshavsky & some who remain anonymous.
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Heinrich Tessendorf: [email protected]