Sujal Patel, a second-time entrepreneur has launched Nautilus Biotechnology after his tech startup Isilon. The idea behind the biotech startup is to monitor a patient’s protein levels in body more rapidly and cheaply which will allow the drug developers to use the data to find targeted treatment for diseases like cancer and let doctors examine sudden conditions.
The company has stayed silent since 2016 about its operations but recently it announced funding of $76 million in an investment round led by Vulcan Capital, investment arm of late Microsoft Cop co-founder Paul Allen. The round also saw participation from Jeff Bezos’s family office and existing investors Andreessen Horowitz and Seattle’s Madrona Venture Group. Post this round, the company has raised a total of $108 million until now but has declined to reveal its net worth.
Patel met Parag Mallick, co-founder of Nautilus during one of their projects together of detecting cancer using supercomputers through detailed blood analysis. Isilon was sold to storage giant EMC Corp in 2010 for $2.25 billion and after that Patel and his wife became donors for Mallick’s lab. Patel was approached by Mallick in 2016 to pitch the idea of using machine learning to make the mapping of patient’s protein easy and affordable. He found this idea appealing and signed up as an investor, co-founder and CEO while Mallick is company’s chief scientist.
Nautilus’s idea of protein study is promising as proteins tell how body instructions are expressed. The high cost and slow speed of mapping have been major challenges faced by biology professionals specially in diagnosis and developing drugs. Pharmaceutical companies try to find the common proteins in diseased cells but not in healthy cells. Once the identification is done, it is easier for them to create the drug that will attack the problematic cells and leave healthy cells alone. Presently finding the right set of cells is a challenge and with Nautilus’s technology, researchers will be able to study complete set of proteins in an organism.
Stuart Nagae director of venture capital at Vulcan Capital is impressed by Nautilus. He said, “It is early but they have an incredibly thoughtful approach. This is a fundamentally transformative opportunity that you don’t see very often.”