Aug 7, 2023

Our Investment in Persist AI

Persist AI uses automation and AI to create slow-release drug formulations 50% faster than conventional methods.

Julie Wolf

We Need AI Solutions for All Areas of Drug Development

Applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning are exploding in biotechnology. Drug and drug target discovery is improving our ability to treat diseases, yet discovery solves only part of the problem: the drug development process is also critical to getting life-saving therapeutics into clinical use.

Drug development includes the formulation of additional inactive ingredients (called excipients) with the active compound that determine its shelf stability, bioavailability, and route of administration for patients. Long-acting formulations can even release the active components over time, resulting in fewer pills or injections of the drug itself.

Developing these formulations can take years, however, and have largely been developed by trial-and-error methodologies. This process is slow, labor intensive, and costly.

Persist AI Co-Founders Karthik Raman and Chris Shelner are Accelerating Drug Development

Karthik Raman, Ph.D. and Chris Shelner are driven to solve this problem. At Persist AI, the cofounders recognize the opportunity to apply technology to accelerate better drug development.

A personal connection drives Karthik’s motivation as well: during his mom’s cancer treatments, he was struck by how often she needed to receive chemotherapy. This experience inspired him to pursue his thesis work on drug delivery to understand how to create a better patient experience.

After graduate school, Karthik worked at several biotechs, including Zymergen. He met Chris when they worked together on Zymergen’s automation team, where they each recognized the role that automation could play in better drug delivery experiences.

Persist AI Combines Automation and AI Applications in Drug Formulation

During the formulation process, variation is added every time a scientist touches the samples. Even the small act of physically carrying samples from one bench to another can introduce differences that will affect the end result.

By creating a completely automated process, Persist AI is able to create more consistent results, which facilitates a layer of artificial intelligence on top to guide experimental design without fear of variability. This allows them to more quickly arrive at the ideal formulation for each specific drug.

Persist AI further specializes in creating long-acting formulations that release an active compound over time, leveraging Karthik’s expertise in drug delivery, and specifically in the PLGA microspheres used in this process.

Persist works with biotech and pharma companies during the drug development stage, to achieve a successful formulation 50% faster than conventional trial-and-error methods. They plan to add value throughout the life of the drug production cycle as well, with the ability to build a cGMP line for full drug manufacturing capabilities.

Building An AI Solution for All Drug Formulations

“Every drug needs formulation. In the new world, we are the guys who do formulation.” 

Persist AI has a big vision and thoughtful plans to achieve that vision. They currently have a full customer pipeline consisting of biotech and pharma companies, and are working with their first customers to achieve formulation milestones.

At 2048 Ventures, our thesis is that automation plus AI/ML in biotech leads to high-value, high-impact outcomes. Karthik’s vision to apply state-of-the-art tech to drug formulation aligns with ours, in which accelerated drug development benefits all stakeholders, from drug makers to drug takers. 

We are pleased to lead Persist AI’s seed round, alongside others who share this vision, including Innospark Ventures, Fellows Fund, Y combinator, Pioneer Fund, and others. 

Learn more about Persist AI at their website and follow Karthik Raman on LinkedIn for additional insights into drug development.

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