Beijing-based tech giant and TikTok owner ByteDance has recently ventured into the life sciences sector. Last October, the firm invested in biotech startup Shuimu BioSciences, a company seeking to leverage the power of cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and artificial intelligence to revolutionize drug discovery.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, life sciences has become one of the most promising sectors for investment. Recently, rapid advancements in cryo-EM, a Nobel Prize-winning technology, gave birth to an entirely new species of biotech startups. The technology provides high-resolution structural information on biological molecules under in vitro conditions. It can visualize the atomic-resolution structure of protein-drug complexes, enabling scientists to turn previously undruggable targets into druggable targets.
Founded in 2017, Shuimu partnered with Thermo Fisher in 2019 to build the first commercial cryo-EM facility in the Asia Pacific with two Titan Krios microscopes. The Beijing-based firm has quickly become the largest of its kind in the world, as it is expanding its capacity to eight 300kV cryo-EMs this year.
Shuimu’s novel drug discovery platform takes advantage of its high-throughput cryo-EM facility and artificial intelligence. It applies AI and deep learning algorithms to automate data collection and model building workflow. An atomic model can be built in only one or two days, instead of two weeks. Shuimu is accelerating drug discovery with its enormous data set of biological structures, including structures of proteins, antibodies, nucleic acid, and other compounds.
Shuimu is led by Wang Hongwei and Allen Guo. As one of the top cryo-EM methodologists, Wang has contributed many technological innovations to this field. His team once achieved the reconstruction of 52 kDa streptavidin at near-atomic resolution, breaking the world record for the smallest proteins to be solved by cryo-EM. “In the future, all drug development will take advantage of cryo-EM and AI,” said Allen Guo, Cofounder and CEO of Shuimu.