Led by UCLA’s Sri Kosuri, Octant is working on drugs for complex diseases and will use the series A funding to further develop its platform.

Octant, a US-based synthetic biology drug developer co-founded by faculty from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), emerged from stealth on Wednesday with $30m in series A financing led by Andreessen Horowitz.

The round also attracted 8VC, SV Angel and Allen & Co, as well as several angel investors.

Founded in 2017, Octant relies on cells engineered through synthetic biology to understand how certain molecules interact with cellular signalling pathways.

The cells contain genetic tags – or barcodes in Octant’s parlance – that activate if a specific protein receptor is hit in a particular pathway. The company uses next-generation sequencing to figure out when barcodes are activated.

The approach allows for multiple barcodes to be used at the same time, enabling Octant to understand the interaction between chemicals and potentially hundreds of drug targets.

Ultimately, Octant hopes to develop drugs for complex diseases that have multiple underlying causes. The technology is based on research by co-founder and chief executive Sri Kosuri, on leave as a tenured professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UCLA.

Kosuri said: “We formed Octant to transform the treatment of society’s most complex diseases, for example metabolic and neurological diseases, which involve many protein receptors and receptor pathways.

“Our discovery platform was designed to map and measure the interconnected relationships between chemicals, multiple drug receptor pathways and diseases, enabling us to engineer multi-targeted drugs in a more rational way, across a wide spectrum of targets.

“By assaying massive numbers of drug receptor pathways at previously unthinkable scales, we are building what the biology is telling us the future of drug discovery will require.”

The money will allow Octant to further develop its drug discovery platform. The company will also open source its platform as part of the Open Covid Pledge, which calls on companies to make their intellectual property free of charge for use in ending the pandemic.

Octant’s shareholders also include Ulu Ventures, Fifty Years, Lux Capital, Refactor Capital and NanoDimension, according to its website, though it does not appear to have released historic funding details.