ARPA-E Investor Update Vol. 20 Thumbnail Tierra Biosciences

ARPA-E Investor Update Vol. 20: Tierra Biosciences' Protein Synthesis Platform

Tierra Biosciences’ Cell Free On-Demand Protein Platform Brings the Ease of DNA Synthesis and Sequencing to the Protein Synthesis Industry.

On March 12, 2024, Tierra Biosciences announced they raised $11.4 million in a Series A funding round led by Material Impact, along with Prosus Ventures, In-Q-Tel, Hillspire, Freeflow Ventures, Creative Ventures, and Social Capital. Tierra has developed a protein platform designed to produce custom purified proteins at multiple scales using their high-throughput, cell-free expression technology and advanced AI models. Tierra will use this funding to advance their AI-powered platform which leverages their growing centralized data lake of manufactured proteins.

ARPA-E Investor Update Vol 20 Tierra Biosciences Protein Platform

Their Series A round brings Tierra’s total private funding to $17.56 million. This is in addition to the $1.49 million in ARPA-E funding Tierra received through the Energy and Carbon Optimized Synthesis for the Bioeconomy (ECOSynBio) program. Tierra was part of a cohort of projects in ECOSynBio exploring cell-free approaches to produce bio-based fuels and products. Tierra’s technology has a wide range of applications, from improving the generation of low-carbon biofuels and next- generation biomaterials to antibody engineering and drug targeting in the biopharma industry.

ARPA-E Investor Update Vol 20 Tierra Biosciences Team Picture

Scientists measuring the amounts of protein made over time using Tierra’s cell-free workflows that support protein synthesis at a variety of scales.

“ARPA-E has had an invaluable impact on Tierra Biosciences,” said Tierra Co-founder and CSO Zachary Sun. “The Technology-to-Market team has worked hard to ensure that ARPA-E and Tierra align on our incentives, so we are addressing the right technical challenges. In today’s day and age, it’s not only important to develop the technology, but ensure it can keep up with the times, be commercialized, and have market potential through all stages of R&D. ARPA-E’s Technology-to-Market team has worked with Tierra to guide market adoption and penetration.”

"ARPA-E's unique two-in-a-box project management gives each research project a unique perspective, not just the Technology-to-Market capabilities as Zach mentions, but technical insight from program directors like Dr. Steve Singer. Tierra is an example of how ARPA-E incubates transformational research into commercial products moving from what started as micrograms,” described Technology-to-Market Advisor Kirk Liu.

While advances in DNA synthesis and sequencing have made exploring diverse sets of sequences easier, the challenges still exist in protein synthesis. Traditional protein synthesis methods utilize whole living cells, which can be hard to engineer and iterate as well as capital and time intensive, creating a bottleneck. It can also be difficult for researchers to access traditional protein synthesis methods. Tierra’s proprietary cell-free expression technology automates complex biological processes and works around the limitations of biology to provide AI-driven computational insights and produce custom proteins on levels of scale unique to the customers’ needs. Using their technology, Tierra is critically enabling and democratizing protein synthesis at-large to make it easily accessible for researchers’ needs, while also reducing the carbon footprint of protein synthesis.