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Genesis Therapeutics raises $52M A round for its AI-focused drug discovery mission

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Sifting through the trillions of molecules out there that might have powerful medicinal effects is a daunting task, but the solution biotech has found is to work smarter, not harder. Genesis Therapeutics has a new simulation approach and cross-disciplinary team that has clearly made an impression: the company just raised a $52 million A round.

Genesis competed in the Startup Battlefield at Disrupt last year, impressing judges with its potential, and obviously others saw it as well — in particular Rock Springs Capital, which led the round.

Over the last few years many companies have been formed in the drug discovery space, powered by increased computing and simulation power that lets them determine the potential of molecules in treating certain diseases. At least that’s the theory. The reality is a bit messier, and while these companies can narrow the search, they can’t just say “here, a cure for Parkinson’s.”

Founder Evan Feinberg got into the field when an illness he inherited made traditional lab work, as an intern at a big pharma company, difficult for him. The computational side of the field, however, was more accessible and ended up absorbing him entirely.

He had dabbled in the area before and arrived at what he feels is a breakthrough in how molecules are represented digitally. Machine learning has, of course, accelerated work in many fields, biochemistry among them, but he felt that the potential of the technology had not been tapped.

“I think initially the attempts were to kind of cut and paste deep learning techniques, and represent molecules a lot like images, and classify them — like you’d say, this is a cat picture or this is not a cat picture,” he explained in an interview. “We represent the molecules more naturally: as graphs. A set of nodes or vertices, those are atoms, and things that connect them, those are bonds. But we’re representing them not just as bond or no bond, but with multiple contact types between atoms, spatial distances, more complex features.”

The resulting representation is richer and more complex, a more complete picture of a molecule than you’d get from its chemical formula or a stick diagram showing the different structures and bonds. Because in the world of biochemistry, nothing is as simple as a diagram. Every molecule exists as a complicated, shifting 3D shape or conformation where important aspects like the distance between two carbon formations or bonding sites is subject to many factors. Genesis attempts to model as many of those factors as it can.

“Step one is the representation,” he said, “but the logical next step is, how does one leverage that representation to learn a function that takes an input and outputs a number, like binding affinity or solubility, or a vector that predicts multiple properties at once?”

That’s the work they’ve focused on as a company — not just creating a better model molecule, but being able to put a theoretical molecule into simulation and say, it will do this, it won’t do this, it has this quality but not that one.

Some of this work may be done in partnerships, such as the one Genesis has struck up with Genentech, but the teams could very well find drug candidates independent of those, and for that reason the company is also establishing an internal development process.

The $52M infusion ought to do a lot to push that forward, Feinberg wrote in an email:

“These funds allow us to execute on a number of critical objectives, most importantly further pioneering AI technologies for drug development and advancing our therapeutics pipeline. We will be hiring more top notch AI researchers, software engineers, medicinal chemists and biotech talent, as well as building our own research labs.”

Other companies are doing simulations as well and barking up the same tree, but Feinberg says Genesis has at least two legs up on them, despite the competition raising hundreds of millions and existing for years.

“We’re the only company in the space that’s working at the intersection of modern deep neural network approaches and biophysical simulation — conformational change of ligands and proteins,” he said. “And we’re bringing this super technical platform to experts who have taken FDA-approved drugs to market. We’ve seen tremendous value creation just from that — the chemists inform the AI too.”

The recent breakthrough of AlphaFold, which is performing the complex task of simulation protein folding far faster than any previous system, is as exciting to Feinberg as to everyone else in the field.

“As scientists, we are incredibly excited by recent progress in protein structure prediction. It is an important basic science advance that will ultimately have important downstream benefits to the development of novel therapeutics,” he wrote. “Since our Dynamic PotentialNet technology is unique in how it leverages 3D structural information of proteins, computational protein folding — similar to recent progress in cryo-EM — is a nice complementary tailwind for the Genesis AI Platform. We applaud all efforts to make protein structure more accessible such that therapeutics can be more easily developed for patients of all conditions.”

Also participating in the funding round were T. Rowe Price Associates, Andreessen Horowitz (who led the seed round), Menlo Ventures, and Radical Ventures.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2020/12/02/genesis-therapeutics-raises-52m-a-round-for-its-ai-focused-drug-discovery-mission/

Patents

Golf Patents: Everything You Need to Know

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A ton of innovation goes into golf equipment and accessories that help players achieve the perfect swing. So, it is no wonder that golf is the leading sport in the United States in terms of patents filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Over 500 golf patents were issued by the USPTO in 2020! Tees, club design, practice putting greens and mats, and golf swing assistance devices are just a few of the many contraptions invented to improve one’s form and technique.  

Types of Patents

A golf-related innovation is usually either some sort of device, like a new golf club handle or high-tech gadget that lets a player know how accurate their swing is, or the innovation can lie in the specific design of golf equipment, such as how the specific dimpling on a golf ball can generate lift or the patterning on a driver’s head can enhance performance of the club. There are two types of patents that are particularly relevant to golf-related inventions – utility patents and design patents

  • Golf Utility Patents – A utility patent, when issued, offers 20 years of protection against others making, selling or using the invention, starting from the date the patent application was filed. Utility patents in the golf world are for inventions related to swing assistance devices, training aids for improving your swing, golf gloves and cleats, golf club heads and handles, golf course scheduling management software and mobile apps, and the like. 
  • Golf Design Patents – Design patents offer protection on specific ornamental features or designs (e.g., how the device looks, is shaped, its surface configuration, etc.), and protection lasts for fifteen years from issuance. Design patents are useful for protecting the surface patterning of a golf ball or the head configuration of a driver, putter or other golf club head. 

Golf Club Patents

Any avid golfer is familiar with the brands Callaway, Ping and TaylorMade as these are some of the main manufacturers of golf clubs. And these companies hold a great many number of patents on their specific golf club lines of products. For instance, the Callaway GBB Epic Driver has several patents protecting its design and functionality, including U.S. Patent No. 9,174,097 (a utility patent on the adjustable shaft and hosel assembly) and U.S. Design Patent Nos. D813,331, D813,332, and D813,333, are each directed to ornamental design features on the Epic club head. Similarly, Ping’s incredibly popular G® Driver is protected by over twenty patents. TaylorMade’s patent portfolio for the SIM driver 2020 contains upwards of 100 patents. When it comes to protecting novel features and designs of golf clubs against infringement by competitors and knockoff suppliers, these companies take patenting seriously. 

Golf Club Patent Example: Callaway Big Bertha Driver – Patent D786,993

Golf Ball Patents

It isn’t just protecting golf clubs with patents that is a big deal in the golf industry. Golf balls are the subject of many patents as well. Companies like Acushnet and Callaway have extensive patent portfolios directed to various features of golf balls – from surface dimpling patterns (U.S. Patent No. 6,945,880), to golf ball construction (U.S. Patent Nos. 7,744,491 and 10,058,741), to golf balls that contain electrical components (U.S. Patent No. 10,688,366). There are literally thousands of patents directed specifically to golf balls. 

Golf Software Patents

Software has also been integrated into a number of golf-related innovations. For instance, there are a number of golf training devices and tools that use software to analyze a player’s swing, trajectory, and form (such as U.S. Patent Nos. 8,202,248 and 10,201,739). Players who want to improve their skills can get virtual lessons online using patented web based interactive lessons (U.S. Patent No. 8,613,620). Patent applications have been filed on portable score keeping devices (U.S. Publication No. 2005/0096761), devices that track pace of play using software (U.S. Publication No. 2018/0204227), computerized systems for managing traffic on busy golf courses (U.S. Publication No. 2017/0164152), and scheduling software for tee time (U.S. Patent No. 8,457,883). 

Want to Protect Your Golf Related Invention? Here’s Where to Start. 

Golfers are passionate individuals who often have great ideas on how to improve their game. These ideas could be patent worthy, and a good place to start when you think you have a great new golf idea is to conduct a prior art search – and more specifically, to hire a trained professional to conduct a prior art search for you. A prior art search involves researching relevant patents and published applications, as well as digging into literature and looking for products that are already available on the market. By seeing what is already out there, a trained professional can better evaluate whether your golf idea is a good candidate for patent protection.    

The professionals at the Rapacke Law Group have extensive experience performing prior art searches, and have worked with a number of avid golfers to protect their novel golf inventions.  Feel free to contact us today for a free initial consultation

Source: https://arapackelaw.com/patents/golf-patents-everything-you-need-to-know/

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International footballer Chris Smalling invests ‘six figure sum’ in Virtue Drinks, a global clean energy drink startup

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Rahi Daneshmand , founder of Virtue Drinks

ROMA AS and England National football star, Chris Smalling, has injected a six-figure sum into Virtue Drinks, a London-based brand that’s on a mission to clean up the energy drinks market. It’s the sixth ethical investment Smalling has made in the last year, demonstrating his determination to publicly support sustainable products.

Established in 2016, the multi-award winning brand, Virtue Drinks, creates clean energy drinks which are all natural, with zero sugar or calories. They have two ranges available globally, Virtue Clean Energy and Virtue Yerba Mate, exporting to leading retailers in 30 countries.

Smalling says: “Virtue has shaken up the industry and made a brilliant product that changes the game. I’m excited to be part of the journey. Why would you drink unhealthy energy drinks when Virtue exists?”.

COVID-19 has accelerated a global trend toward healthy living, with consumers rethinking their eating and drinking habits. More people are scrutinising product ingredients, shifting from sugary or artificial energy drinks, with high amounts of synthetic caffeine, to clean alternatives.

London born entrepreneur, Rahi Daneshmand, launched Virtue Drinks in 2016, after looking for a clean energy drink himself. Having avoided energy drinks post-university, whilst constantly trying to find ways to improve his energy levels, he felt there’d be a lot of people also looking for a natural pick-me-up, with zero sugar or calories.

Daneshmand says: “We have very high aspirations, with plans to bring Virtue to every store where you might find traditional energy drink brands. Each can of Virtue gives customers the same amount of natural caffeine as the leading energy drink or coffee, without any sacrifice on taste and none of the artificial chemicals.”

Source: https://www.eu-startups.com/2021/01/international-footballer-chris-smalling-invests-six-figure-sum-in-virtue-drinks-a-global-clean-energy-drink-startup/

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British low-alcohol spirits startup CleanCo lands €7.8 million to promote ‘hangover-free drinking’ internationally

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British premium low-alcohol spirits startup, CleanCo, has secured around €7.8 million in funding as investors and consumers reveal an insatiable thirst for hangover-free drinking. The latest investment takes the total now raised by the business to around €10.2 million.

The company within the “nolo” (no- or low- alcohol) category received the cash injection from existing and new gold-stamped investors including: Ursula Burns, board member of Uber and former board member of Diageo, and Stonebridge PLC, a digital-first consumer brand investment firm set up by DTC entrepreneur James Cox, who shall also advise the company on its future growth plans.

Providing people with a healthier alternative to traditional tipples, CleanCo has cultivated a loyal ‘sober-curious’ following of over 50,000 customers in just 15 months with its authentic taste and ‘cheeky-luxe’ positioning.

Recording +580% uplift in sales since the start of ‘Dry January 2021’ and +1419% YoY, the low-abv spirits business founded by TV personality and entrepreneur, Spencer Matthews  with the support of ex-director of the Gin Guild, Justin Hicklin, who acts as Chairmain. CleanCo uses traditional distilling methods to create low-alcohol spirits, and entered the market in November 2019 with CleanGin, followed by CleanRum in May 2020, both at 1.2% ABV. 

The fresh funds raised in its latest financing push will support the brand’s international expansion, including plans to launch a number of significant new markets in H1 2021. The new funds will also allow for ‘significant’ marketing investment in the UK to increase brand awareness. 

“Nobody wakes up saying “I wish I drank more last night,” explained co-founder Matthews, who has been sober since 2018. “Anyone can have a good reason to avoid or reduce their intake of alcohol. After a sub-par 2020, many of us will start 2021 with a sore head, coupled with fresh resolve and ambition to change destructive habits. We want more drinkers to be aware that there are choices when it comes to drinking high- or low-strength alcohol. At CleanCo, we’re offering an easy transition with quality and credible replacements – without compromising on taste or social experience.”

The UK producer of spirits has also just released its first ready-to-drink, canned cocktail range, featuring 0.5% ABV twists on classic serves. CleanRum & Cola is made using traditional Jamaican rum techniques and is said to deliver undertones of caramel and cayenne pepper, paired with ‘premium cola’. Meanwhile, CleanGin & Tonic offers a ‘crisp botanical blend’ of juniper, grapefruit, cardamom, mint, ginger and cinnamon. The London-headquartered company also plans to release a vodka later this year.

“Our concept is absolutely in line with market trends, as people look to change their drinking habits and as health conscious consumers consider their options,” said Justin Hicklin, Chairman of CleanCo.

To create low or no alcohol beverages, manufacturers often replace the alcohol with sugar, but to reduce the sugar and retain full flavour is challenging, and unique to CleanCo, in a closely guarded and developing process, which Hicklin reveals only as a “multiplicity of distillations.”

Source: https://www.eu-startups.com/2021/01/british-low-alcohol-spirits-startup-cleanco-lands-e7-8-million-to-promote-hangover-free-drinking-internationally/

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Munich-based HR scaleup Personio lands €103.5 million Series D funding and a €1.4 billion valuation

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Munich-based Personio, the all-in-one HR platform, today announces approx. €103.5 million of new and preemptive Series D funding in an investment round that values the business at around €1.4 billion.

The new funding will accelerate further the scaleup’s international expansion, supporting its ambition of becoming Europe’s leading HR platform for SMEs. It follows a strong year of growth for the business in 2020, which saw it double revenues despite adverse market conditions.

Founded in 2015, Personio offers an all-in-one HR software for small- and medium-sized companies with 10 to 2,000 employees. Its mission is to make HR processes as transparent and efficient as possible so human resources team members can focus on the most valuable assets in the company: the people. Personio’s software includes human resources, recruiting and payroll and supports all core HR processes every business needs to do. Personio is already helping more than 3,000 SMEs across Europe unlock their productive potential by digitizing and automating their people operations.

The latest funding was led by existing investor Index Ventures, which has previously supported high-profile software companies including Slack, Dropbox and Zendesk to their IPO. All of Personio’s other existing investors – Accel, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Northzone, Global Founders Capital and Picus – participated in this latest funding round.

They have also been joined by Meritech, which has a long-standing track record of backing highly successful SaaS companies, including Salesforce, where they were the first outside investor, as well as recent high-flyers Datadog, Snowflake and UiPath.

The funding round comes only twelve months after the business received around €67.6 million Series C funding, in a round led by Accel. The new capital will enable Personio to increase its expansion across Europe and focus on the further development of its cloud-based software, as it builds Europe’s leading HR operating system for recruiting, personnel administration and payroll for small and medium-sized companies.

Personio’s plans for the coming year include further enhancing the product’s core capabilities, launching the Personio Marketplace with new integrations in Q1, continuing fast growth across Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and doubling down its investments in markets that the business entered in 2020 such as Spain, the UK and Ireland, the Nordics and Benelux. In 2021 it will also enter new markets, including France and Italy. In additional, it planes to double its international headcount from 500 to 1000 by the end of 2021, across its four offices in Munich (HQ), Madrid, London and Dublin, where its new international sales and engineering hub has been established.

While the funding also provides the option for further acquisitions, such as the purchase of Rollbox in 2019, there are currently no M&A activities planned and the focus remains on continued strong organic growth.

Hanno Renner, co-founder and CEO of Personio commented: “While the past year has proven difficult for many industries and businesses, it has at the same time accelerated the digitization of small and mid-sized businesses. It has also showcased the important role of HR teams, especially while so many of us continue to work remotely. We are grateful for a strong year in which we could grow to serve over 3,000 European SMEs. By further expanding our platform, we’ll continue to support our customers in tackling their current challenges and beyond.”

“This preemptive investment comes earlier than we had anticipated, as we’re still well funded from our previous round in January 2020. Such strong interest and support from our investors demonstrates not only the value of Personio’s offering, but also the huge potential the business has for further development and growth in the future. We are only scratching the surface of the market potential.”

Martin Mignot, Partner at Index Ventures and Personio Board Member said: “SMEs are the backbone of the European economy, employing 100 million people across the continent, but it is also a sector that has been neglected by software companies focused predominantly on large enterprises. Personio changes that, having created a set of powerful tools tailored to address the needs of small businesses. Under the leadership of the company’s co-founder Hanno Renner, Personio has quickly become one of the most impactful and impressive businesses in Europe, and we’re thrilled to be working with him and the team as they scale and respond to rising demand for their products.”

Alex Clayton, General Partner at Meritech Capital and Personio’s newest Board Member said: “We have had the pleasure of working with some of the most successful SaaS companies in the world, and given Personio’s success over the past five years and the immense market potential, we strongly believe in Personio’s ability to build an equally successful and impactful business. After many great discussions with Hanno over recent years, we are now excited to be joining the journey.”

The latest valuation places Personio among the most valuable private software companies in Europe as it joins the likes of UiPath, Revolut, Deliveroo or Klarna in the ranks of European startups with a valuation of more than $1 billion – the ‘unicorns’.

Source: https://www.eu-startups.com/2021/01/munich-based-hr-scaleup-personio-lands-e103-5-million-series-d-funding-and-a-e1-4-billion-valuation/

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