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Xaira, an AI drug discovery startup, launches with a massive $1B, says it's 'ready' to start developing drugs | TechCrunch

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses the recent $1 billion funding round for Xaira Therapeutics, a new AI-powered biotech company that aims to revolutionize drug discovery using generative AI methods similar to those used in image generation. The article highlights the key points:

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] Xaira Therapeutics and AI-powered Drug Discovery

1. What is Xaira Therapeutics and what is its goal?

  • Xaira Therapeutics is a new AI biotech company that has raised $1 billion in funding from various investors.
  • The company's goal is to use recent breakthroughs in AI, particularly in foundational models similar to those used in image generation, to design molecular structures that can be used to develop new drugs.
  • The company believes the technology is at an inflection point where it can have a transformative effect on the field of drug discovery.

2. Who are the key people involved in Xaira Therapeutics?

  • The CEO of Xaira Therapeutics is Marc Tessier-Lavigne, a former Stanford president and chief scientific officer at Genentech.
  • One of the co-founders is David Baker, who runs the University of Washington's Institute of Protein Design and has developed the foundational models that power Xaira's approach.

3. How does Xaira's approach differ from traditional drug discovery methods?

  • Traditional drug discovery methods rely on creating datasets to drive model development, which can be challenging in the field of biology and medicine.
  • Xaira's approach aims to leverage generative AI models similar to those used in image generation to design molecular structures that can be used to develop new drugs.

4. What are some other biotech companies using generative AI for drug discovery?

  • Other biotech companies using generative AI to design drugs include Recursion, which went public in 2021, and Genesis Therapeutics, a startup that raised a $200 million Series B last year.

[02] Challenges and Skepticism

1. What are some of the challenges facing Xaira and other biotech companies using generative AI?

  • Unlike in technology, where data that trains AI models is created by consumers, biology and medicine are "data poor," meaning companies have to create the datasets that drive model development.
  • Bringing new drugs to market is an expensive and time-consuming process, requiring billions of dollars to be a "real drug company" and also invest in AI capabilities.

2. What are some of the concerns around Xaira's CEO, Marc Tessier-Lavigne?

  • Tessier-Lavigne resigned from his position as Stanford president just seven months ago following reports that his laboratory at Genentech had manipulated research data.
  • While Tessier-Lavigne was not accused of manipulating any data himself and was exonerated by a Stanford review, the investigation had become a significant distraction.
  • Investors, however, seem confident in Tessier-Lavigne's integrity and scientific vision, stating that he is the right person to lead Xaira as CEO.
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