The Institute for Protein Design is an innovation factory.
Since launching a decade ago, the University of Washington institution has grown to about 200 researchers and spun out eight startups wielding protein-design software to forge new drugs, vaccines, and enzymes. IPD spinouts have collectively raised more than $1 billion and helped fuel a biotech boom in Seattle, where they have all landed.
IPD researchers also keep close ties to the institution after joining startups, forming a pool of advisors that nurture the next generation of companies within the bustling institution.
The IPD aims to fosters a culture of collaboration among its interdisciplinary mix of software engineers, drug development experts and other scientists, according to director David Baker, who won the prestigious “Breakthrough” award in the life sciences in 2021. His job, he said, is to bring the right people together and provide an environment for interaction.
“I just kind of stand back and let the magic happen,” said Baker.
It’s the human connections that foster entrepreneurship within an institution that has risen to the challenge of moving research beyond the ivory tower since its launch ten years ago.
“You’re surrounded by people who know some of the problems you’re running into,” said Anindya Roy, an IPD scientist and co-founder of Lila Biologics, an emerging spinout within the IPD. “You just go to them.”