Marc Tessier-Lavigne, PhD, Xaira Therapeutics founding CEO, and Bing presidential professor, head of laboratory at Stanford University

AI-based drug developer Xaira Therapeutics has been launched with more than $1 billion in capital and a self-described ambitious commitment to transform drug discovery and development by creating new and more effective treatments faster.

Xaira said it plans to advance an unspecified “multiple” drug programs—the company did not identify its therapeutic areas or targets of interest—by combining AI with top-tier product development and biological and clinical data generation.

In AI, Xaira is promising to combine methods research with building “significant” research capabilities that include the development of fundamental computational methods and the application of those methods to biological discovery, the design of drug-like matter, and clinical development.

Xaira says its advances in biological machine learning are underpinned by its ability to generate, integrate, and learn from vast multidimensional datasets designed to comprehensively characterize disease-relevant biology from molecular scale to people scale.

Technologies and personnel from Illumina’s functional genomics R&D effort have been spun out into Xaira and have been absorbed into the startup’s internal platforms, as has the proteomics group from Interline Therapeutics, a drug developer whose precision medicine platform is designed to map and modulate protein communities.

“Witnessing how AI is impacting other industries and the considerable progress in applications of AI in biology, I believe we are poised for a revolution,” Marc Tessier-Lavigne, PhD, Xaira’s founding CEO, said in a statement.

Tessier-Lavigne served as Genentech’s chief scientific officer before later becoming president of The Rockefeller University and most recently, Stanford University.

Last year, Tessier-Lavigne resigned from the helm at Stanford (he still maintains a lab there and the position of Bing presidential professor, head of laboratory) after an investigation by a committee of the university’s board of trustees concluded that in four of five scientific papers where he was a principal author, “there was apparent manipulation of research data by others.” The committee added that for those papers, Tessier-Lavigne “did not have actual knowledge of the manipulation of research data that occurred in his lab and was not reckless in failing to identify such manipulation prior to publication.”

In seven other papers where Tessier-Lavigne was a co-author, the committee also found that he “did not have actual knowledge of any manipulation of research data, did not have a material role, in the preparation of the data and/or figures that have been publicly challenged, and was not in a position where a reasonable scientist would be expected to have detected any such misconduct.”

ARCH Venture Partners and Foresite Labs founded and jointly incubated Xaira, whose co-founders include David Baker, PhD, director of the University of Washington (UW) School of Medicine’s Institute for Protein Design; Hetu Kamisetty, PhD, formerly of Facebook parent company Meta and the Institute for Protein Design; and Vikram (Vik) Bajaj, PhD, co-founder and CEO of, Foresite Labs and managing director, Foresite Capital.

“Dawn of a new era”

“We are at the dawn of a new era in Drug Discovery powered by AI,” Kamisetty declared on LinkedIn. “Excited to be working on this mission with an amazing team at Xaira Therapeutics!”

Joining Kamisetty and Tessier-Lavigne as executives of Xaira are Arvind Rajpal, PhD, a former Genentech and Bristol Myers Squibb executive; and Don Kirkpatrick, PhD, a former chief technology officer of Interline who earlier held several positions at Genentech.

At Genentech, Rajpal established the large molecule drug discovery (LMDD) organization consisting of the Antibody Engineering and Protein Chemistry departments (90+ scientists and 60+ contractors), according to his LinkedIn page, and was vice president of large molecule drug discovery—antibody engineering and protein chemistry.

Earlier this week, Kirkpatrick’s LinkedIn feed advertised for a “scientist/senior scientist” for the startup: “Continuing to build our Experimental Proteomics team…looking for someone passionate about breaking new ground in disease biology and propelling the next generation of drug discovery through Proteomics.”

ARCH Venture Partners and Foresite Capital led the billion-dollar-plus financing, joined by F-Prime, NEA, Sequoia Capital, Lux Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Menlo Ventures, Two Sigma Ventures, the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy (PICI), Byers Capital, Rsquared, and SV Angel, among others.

Xaira is the largest initial funding commitment in ARCH Venture Partners’ history, according to Robert Nelsen, the firm’s managing director and co-founder.

Xaira has named its board of directors. In addition to Tessier-Lavigne, Bajaj, and Nelsen, board members include:

  • 2022 Nobel laureate Carolyn Bertozzi, PhD, Baker Family Director of Sarafan ChEM-H; Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor; professor (by courtesy) of chemical and systems biology and of radiology, Stanford University; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  • Kaye Foster, senior advisor, The Boston Consulting Group, and former SVP, Global Human Resources, Onyx Pharmaceuticals, former CHRO, Johnson & Johnson
  • Alex Gorsky, former chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson
  • Scott Gottlieb, MD, a former FDA Commissioner and now a partner with venture capital firm NEA.
  • Stephen Knight, MD, President & Managing Partner, F-Prime Capital.
  • Mathai Mammen, MD, PhD, Chairman and CEO of FogPharma and former EVP, Pharmaceuticals R&D with Johnson & Johnson.
  • Richard Scheller, PhD, chairman of R&D, BridgeBio; former chief scientific officer and head of therapeutics at 23andMe, and the former Executive Vice President of Research and Early Development at Genentech. Scheller is a 2013 Lasker Award winner.
  • Bryan White, chair, advisory board, the Institute for Protein Design; co-founder and chief investment officer, Sahsen Ventures; former CIO Quadra/Quellos and Blackrock Alternative Advisors.

“We have reached the point where AI finally allows us to see biology in new ways and translate those discoveries to better treatments for disease. This creates an enormous opportunity for us to rethink drug discovery entirely,” Nelsen stated.

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