EvolutionaryScale: Biology AI Research Lab Company Raises $142 Million In Seed Funding

By Amit Chowdhry • Jul 10, 2024

EvolutionaryScale, a frontier AI research lab for biology, launched recently with ESM3, a milestone AI model capable of generating novel proteins. ESM3 generated a new Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP), which is a process that would take 500 million years of evolution to occur naturally. The company also announced a seed round of more than $142 million, led by Nat Friedman and Daniel Gross, and Lux Capital, with participation from Amazon, NVentures (NVIDIA’s venture capital arm) and angel investors. This funding will be used for further expanding the capabilities of its models.

The company’s milestone generative AI model allows interactive prompting to create proteins, empowering scientists to advance applications from drug discovery and materials science to carbon capture.

The founding team at EvolutionaryScale and behind ESM3 are pioneers at applying AI to biology, building what is widely considered to be the first transformer language model for proteins ESM1. And the ESM models have empowered groundbreaking scientific research, including a breakthrough in protein folding that helped reveal the structures of hundreds of millions of metagenomic proteins; the models have been used by scientists across the world to model and understand proteins.

ESM3 was trained with 1 trillion teraflops – which is more compute than any other known model in biology – on a dataset of 2.78 billion proteins across the Earth’s natural diversity. And it is the first generative model for biology that simultaneously reasons over the sequence, structure and function of proteins. This enables scientists to understand and create new proteins, which makes biology programmable.

With this capability, the model has the potential to accelerate discovery across a broad range of applications, ranging from the development of new cancer treatments to creating proteins that could help capture carbon.

Prompted via a chain of thought to reason over possible sequences and structures of GFP, ESM3 stepped across 500 million years of evolution to create a new fluorescent protein. And GFP is one of the most beautiful and unique proteins in nature, responsible for the glowing of jellyfish and the vivid fluorescent colors of coral. Plus, it is the only protein that emits light, and the biological mechanism for this is unique – it is a protein that transforms itself, forming a light-emitting chromophore out of its own atoms.

GFP is an important tool in molecular biology as it helps scientists to see molecules inside cells. ‌New fluorescent proteins this distant from known ones have only been found through the discovery of new GFPs in the natural world. And the company’s analysis suggests that under natural evolution it could take more than 500 million years for a protein this different to evolve.

EvolutionaryScale opened an API for closed beta and code and weights are available for a small open version of ESM3 for non-commercial use. EvolutionaryScale is also collaborating with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and NVIDIA to accelerate applications from drug discovery to synthetic biology with AI.

By working with AWS, Evolutionary Scale is making the full ESM3 model family more accessible to hundreds of thousands of researchers around the world and nine out of the top ten global pharma companies, who already use AWS’s generative AI and health services — Amazon SageMaker, Amazon Bedrock, and AWS HealthOmics. And this move will make it easier for researchers to fine-tune the ESM3 models using their own proprietary data securely, and at scale.


“ESM3 takes a step toward a future of biology where AI is a tool to engineer from first principles, the way we engineer structures, machines, and microchips, and write computer programs. We’ve been working on this for a long time, and we’re excited to share it with the scientific community and see what they do with it.”

– EvolutionaryScale co-founder and chief scientist Alexander Rives