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From Covid-19 vaccines to therapies against a range of deadly diseases, every RNA molecule has a complex 3D shape that controls its function. A new Bay Area biotech is harnessing artificial intelligence to better understand and predict these structures in hopes of developing new therapeutics.

The South San Francisco company, Atomic AI, was started in May 2021 and is still young. So is its CEO, Raphael Townshend, a Stanford computer science Ph.D. who just turned 30. But the startup already has big ambitions for how its AI-based approach can both help biotechs identify RNA-targeting drugs and design RNA to be stable, compact, or to have other desired properties. And it has drawn interest from investors.


“This is an area where there’s no one else working,” said Jory Bell, general partner at venture capital firm Playground Global, which led a $35 million Series A financing round that Atomic AI announced on Wednesday. “That was just super compelling for us.”

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