Insamo Develops Best-in-Class Membrane-Permeable Macrocyclic Peptides

February 21, 2024


Insamo Launches with $12M Funding from Playground Global, venBio, and MRL Ventures Fund

BERKELEY, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE) — February 21, 2004 — Insamo, a biotechnology company pioneering the discovery of membrane-permeable and orally available cyclic-peptides, today announced $12 million in seed capital from Playground Global, venBio, and MRL Ventures Fund (MRLV). MRLV is a corporate venture arm of Merck & Co., Inc which invests in early-stage, preclinical therapeutics companies. As part of the financing, Matt Hershenson, co-founder, Playground Global, and Corey Goodman, Ph.D, co-founder, venBio, will join the company’s Board of Directors. Sahsen Ventures, BEVC, Civilization Ventures, and Axial Ventures also participated in the recent financing.

Since its inception in 2022, CEO Timothy Craven, Ph.D., MBA, CSO Toby Passioura, Ph.D., and COO Glen Mcintyre, Ph.D. have been developing a platform to revolutionize drug discovery by combining ML-driven molecular design, ultra high-throughput molecular biology, and parallel synthetic chemistry to rapidly identify preclinical candidates that exhibit favorable pharmacological properties. Their objectives encompass enhancing patient care by replacing injected or infused biologics with easily administered oral cyclic-peptide formulations as well as driving rapid drug discovery for currently intractable drug targets. Their “turn-key” solution has the remarkable capability to consistently generate treatment candidates from scratch, regardless of prior knowledge about the disease target’s structure, dynamics, or ‘druggable’ sites, and requires only a small vial of the target material.

“Insamo’s mission is to transform how we discover drugs for some of the most challenging diseases,” said Tim Craven, CEO and co-founder of Insamo. “Macrocyclic peptides have been challenging to translate into the clinic. But we’re changing that. Our innovative ML tools and screening technologies drive our ability to rapidly optimize drug efficacy. With our recent funding, we’re poised to explore the full capabilities of these molecules and tackle breakthroughs in diseases once considered untreatable. Our platform’s pioneering capability lies in its automated process of designing, synthesizing, and testing at an unprecedented scale. Our groundbreaking approach enables us to iterate our design cycle using trillions of proprietary experimental data points across an astronomical drug-like chemical space which we believe sets an entirely new standard for the application of scalable machine learning to drug design.”

“Insamo represents Playground’s commitment to investing in companies that apply proprietary data for AI and machine learning in underexplored domains,” said Playground Global’s Matt Hershenson. “Through an AI and ML-driven drug discovery platform, Insamo is developing macrocycles using massively scaled in-house data. Macrocycles are a natural and uniquely efficacious modality, and, powered by Insamo’s AI-driven engineering, they can create safer and more potent oral therapeutics. Insamo’s technology unlocks the potential to engineer macrocycles with improved properties and develop new therapies for previously undruggable targets across a broad range of diseases with high unmet need.”

“This innovative platform truly discovers membrane-permeable cyclic-peptides with oral bioavailability and binding capabilities akin to monoclonal antibodies,” said Dr. Corey Goodman, co-founder of venBio. “The company’s capacity to synthesize and screen libraries containing trillions of molecules facilitates the discovery of high-affinity ligands for drug targets across a spectrum of diseases. Our investment in Insamo underscores our dedication to supporting companies pushing the boundaries of drug discovery to enhance patient outcomes.”

About Insamo

Insamo is a biotechnology company pioneering the discovery of membrane-permeable and orally available cyclic-peptides with antibody-like binding affinity. The founding team has deep scientific roots owing to time spent training in the frontier labs of David Baker at the University of Washington and Hiroaki Suga at the University of Tokyo. Insamo has research sites in Berkeley, CA and Sydney, Australia. Insamo’s US headquarters is on campus at UC Berkeley’s Bakar Labs. For more information, visit

About Playground Global

Playground Global is an early-stage venture capital firm investing in deep tech and scientific founders who have developed breakthroughs in frontier technologies that will transform existing industries and create entirely new verticals. Learn more at

About venBio Partners

venBio Partners is a life sciences investment firm that partners with industry leaders to build and invest in innovative medicines and technologies, with a focus on novel therapeutics for unmet medical needs. For more information, go to

About MRL Ventures Fund

MRL Ventures Fund (MRLV) is a therapeutics-focused corporate venture fund of Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, N.J., USA. From its headquarters in Cambridge, Mass., USA, the MRLV team invests globally in early-stage innovative therapeutics companies that are developing transformative medicines in any therapeutics area using any modality. The MRLV team of experienced-life sciences venture capital professionals is committed to supporting great entrepreneurs in their quest to create value through building companies that have a meaningful impact on health and disease. For more information, visit


Media Contact
Katja Gagen
Playground Global