VR-Powered Molecular Design

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✍️ Notes from the Editors

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After a week of tech parties, bagel sandwiches, and the occasional subway rat, we’re back from NY Tech Week. Between chatting with Intel’s CTO or scoping the city from the highest observable point in NYC, we had a great time and had the chance to meet a lot of Unicorner readers.

Ethan, about to destroy a Reuben from Katz’s Deli

The view from The Edge, New York’s highest observable point

In other news, we’re excited to introduce our newest contributor Rohan Desai to the team. He comes to us from Harvey Mudd, where he’s studying Math and CS. In his free time, he’s a Managing Partner at the student-led VC firm Crescent Fund. We hope you enjoy this deep dive into Nanome!

- Ethan and Arek 🦄

The VR-Powered Future of Molecular Design

Nanome is an extended reality platform for scientists to visualize molecules using virtual reality technology. It enhances molecular and drug design workflows by enabling researchers from all around the world to immersively collaborate in real-time using VR headsets and their hands to manipulate molecules. Through Nanome Stacks, Nanome allows scientists to leverage third-party plugins such as molecular simulation tools and docking algorithms directly in its VR interface.

🔗 Check it out:

💰 Business Model

Nanome provides a limited version of its software for personal use; however, it also offers an academic license for $299 per year which gives customers more control over their workspace and unlimited molecule visualizations. Nanome serves large customers with additional features and support through research licenses for $5,000 per year and cloud-ready enterprise plans.

📈 Traction and Fundraising

  • Raised $3 million in a venture round led by Bullpen Capital in 2021, and is currently gearing up for a Series A

  • Scaling with 45% YoY user growth, as of 2023

  • Launching Molecular Analysis and Reasoning Agent (MARA), an AI platform leveraging internal R&D data with public databases to assist scientists in molecular analysis

  • Releasing Nanome 2.x, its second generation XR platform supporting the Apple Vision Pro, in Q2 of 2024

👫 Founders

  • Steve McCloskey: CEO: Previously CEO @ nanoVR, Materials and Nanoscience Researcher @ UCSD, Nanoengineering @ UCSD

  • Sam Hessenauer: CTO: Previously Technology Partnerships and Investment Analyst @ GE Digital, President and Founder @ TritonXR, Electrical and Electronics Engineering @ UCSD

  • Keita Funakawa: COO: Previously CFO & PM @ nanoVR, Filmatic Curatorial & Video Production Assistant @ ArtPower UCSD, Photographer @ Qualcomm Institute UCSD, Management Science @ UCSD

  • Edgardo Leija: CXO: Previously Interaction Designer @ HP, VP Design @ nanoVR, UX & Interaction Designer @ TicketSocket, Cognitive Science (specializing in HCI and CS) @ UCSD

📖 Founder Story

Growing up, Nanome founder and CEO Steve McCloskey loved video games and was first exposed to VR in 1997, decades before the technology was mainstream. McCloskey went on to study science, hoping to cure cancer and work in medical care, but quickly realized the lacking medical design interfaces that plagued the rate at which scientists could work. Leveraging his early exposure and love for VR, he set out to build a more intuitive platform for researchers to work on the nano-scale. McCloskey set out and built his first prototype and onboarded his cofounders to eventually found Nanome.

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🔮 Our Analysis

One of the largest challenges that scientists—from chemists to biologists—face is that the molecules they work to generate and study are complex and three-dimensional, while our brains and existing tools primarily operate in two dimensions. Nanome addresses this gap between modeling and reality by enabling scientists to work in a 3D space, just like the molecules they’re building will be used in. Although drug discovery and pharmaceutical development are industries rapidly evolving toward using AI to generate drugs rather than humans, Nanome is well-positioned to tackle this shift through MARA and its commitment to leveraging AI tools and vast amounts of data to further accelerate the work of human researchers. MARA also serves to democratize access to science; although there exist vast amounts of data and computational tooling, they remain inaccessible to most researchers. Through leveraging lots of data and providing an intuitive interface for complex computational methods, MARA democratizes research by making molecular chemistry breakthroughs accessible to more than just the top-tier labs.

📚 Further reading

Written by Rohan Desai

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