Israeli-founded biotech startup Ukko announced $40 million in Series B funding led by Leaps by Bayer, the impact investment arm of pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG, to further develop its solutions for food allergies and sensitivities.
The investment was announced last week and brings Ukko’s total capital raised to nearly $50 million. Continental Grain Company, PeakBridge Ventures, Skyviews Life Science and Fall Line Capital, also participated in this round, as did existing investors Khosla Ventures, Innovation Endeavors, and TIME Ventures, the investment fund of Marc Benioff.
Ukko was founded in 2016 with a mission to end food allergies, such as to peanuts, and food sensitivities, like gluten. The company says it uses a proprietary AI-powered platform that precisely engineers food proteins to eliminate their allergenicity and prevent triggering the immune system.
Ukko is working on a two-pronged approach. On the food side, Ukko is working on improved gluten proteins that are especially designed for people with celiac and other gluten sensitivities. On the therapeutic side, Ukko is using its protein design platform to develop a new investigational therapy for peanut allergy.
Ukko also has plans to address additional major food allergens.
Food allergies affect approximately 2.5 percent of the global population or about 200 million people, and can put serious strains on families, communities, healthcare systems, and so on.
“We are at the forefront of a revolution,” said Anat Binur, CEO and co-founder of Ukko, in a statement. “Hundreds of millions of people around the world suffer from food allergies and experts see it as a global epidemic. Ending food allergy is critical and is only the beginning. Ukko’s tech has the potential to leverage science and human data to redesign our food and medicine.”
Prof. Yanay Ofran, chairman and co-founder of Ukko, and a professor at Bar Ilan University said: “Big data allows us to understand the underpinnings of food sensitivities. Computational tools allow us to precisely design the proteins that make up our bodies and our food. New genome editing technologies allow us to rewrite DNA to produce these new proteins in living cells. Ukko sits at the intersection of these breakthrough technologies, allowing us to redefine healthy food at the molecular level, based on real data.”
“Ukko’s investigative approaches to solving allergies and food sensitivities both from the food side and the patient therapeutics side have the possibility of delivering enormous benefits for humanity,” said Juergen Eckhardt, MD, Head of Leaps by Bayer. “One of the big challenges we’re addressing through our Leaps investments is attempting to reverse autoimmune diseases, which have enormous impacts on the world’s food systems and our health systems in every community around the globe. We are proud to lead this investment in Ukko and help solve the biggest allergies and food sensitivities.”
Ukko has offices in Palo Alto and Tel Aviv.