Northpond Ventures led the round that saw Molecule raise $13 million in seed capital. Backed VC and Shine Capital were also part of the round, as was Speedinvest, Speedinvest, and Balaji Srinivasan, former Coinbase CTO. This protocol views itself as part decentralized science, which is a movement that allows research projects to be owned and funded collectively.
Molecule is a platform that allows medical research projects to receive funding through decentralized autonomous organisations (DAOs). This round was led by Northpond Ventures, a biotech venture capital firm.
According to a press release, other participants included Shine Capital and Speedinvest, as well as former Coinbase CTO Balaji Srinivasan. This is Molecule’s first raise in web3 space.
In an interview with The Block, Tyler Golato, founder of Molecule, explained that Molecule is part a new movement called Decentralized Science (DeSci), which emerged from web3. This idea is that funding for research does not need to be centralized and centralized. Instead of being centralized, it can be crowdfunded.
Golato, whose background is in biology and biochemistry, said that insulin could be owned and managed by all diabetics. “Imagine if insulin were collectively owned and controlled by diabetes patients — how would they access the drug and price it?” It’s the idea of trying to open up an industry that is anti-collaborative, monopolistic, and find a way for it to be accessible to a wider range of people with the most stake in the game.
Molecule hopes to create this ecosystem through its platform. It allows researchers to list projects that are non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, which can be used to sign intellectual property. The platform currently hosts a Newcastle University research into molecular ageing and a University of Copenhagen study on longevity. These projects are funded via DAOs. Usually, they are in USD Coin.
Currently, most of the funding comes through VitaDAO, its associated DAO. Molecule will use part of the funding to create an accelerator framework for biotech DAOs. It will support specific diseases with $100,000 seed checks. The hope is that it can become self-funded. A large portion of the funding will be used to expand its engineering team and create a foundation that can steward the Molecule protocol.
Golato stated that the larger vision was to create a DeSci environment that will not only include DAOs funding research, but also pharmaceutical companies and the general public investing in these research projects.
The decentralized science ecosystem
However, the Molecule team recognized that DeSci was probably one of its greatest obstacles. They also noted that it was difficult to convince the top-tier law firm, which was hired by the lead investor, to conduct due diligence regarding its round. Golato stated that web3 was so complex that the lead investor had to be explained to it.
It was a lot learning. He said that it was helping them understand tokenomics and non-profit foundations that manage a protocol. Also, the idea of investing in an ecosystem, rather than a company, was important. These structures are foreign to an organization used to investing in [centralized corporations] and owning a large part of the company.