PALO ALTO, CALIF. — Food technology startup Ukko Inc. raised $40 million in a Series B funding round led by Leaps by Bayer, the investment arm of pharmaceutical company Bayer AG, with participation from Continental Grain Co., PeakBridge Ventures, Skyviews Life Science and Fall Line Capital.
Founders Anat Binur and Yanay Ofran created Ukko with the goal of eliminating prevalent food allergies. They developed a proprietary artificial intelligence platform that engineers food proteins to eliminate their allergenicity while keeping their nutritional benefits.
The funding will accelerate development of Ukko’s gluten proteins, which are designed for people with celiac and other gluten sensitivities.
“We are at a unique crossroads in the history of science,” Mr. Ofran 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.”
The company also will use funds from the Series B round to enter clinical trials with its investigational therapeutic for peanut allergy. It plans to use its protein design platform to address additional major food allergens in the future.
The Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup has formed an advisory board consisting of leaders in food and agricultural innovation, including Bernhard Van Lengerich, former chief science officer and vice president of technology strategy at General Mills, and Ann M. Veneman, former US secretary of agriculture, along with several clinical experts in food allergy and sensitivity.
“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, 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.”