Call for Application #2024-AIL-C07 closed since April 14, 2024

AI/ML Platform for Targeting RNA With Small Molecules

Call closed!

1 Scientist Founder (all genders)
2 Scientist Co-Founders (all genders)

AION Labs is a first-of-its-kind venture studio of AstraZeneca, Merck, Pfizer, Teva, Israel Biotech Fund, Amiti Ventures, and Amazon Web Services (AWS), powered by BioMed X. With the support of the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA), the partners have come together to establish a fully funded new startup company in the field of:

AI/ML Platform for Targeting RNA With Small Molecules

What we are looking for

If you are an entrepreneur or have an outstanding track record or strong interest in the fields of computational biology, bioinformatics, RNA biology and RNA structure, small molecules, machine learning, language models in biology, or other relevant field, we invite you to apply with a project proposal for an opportunity to lead or join our new startup team.

For decades, pharmaceutical companies considered RNA as an inappropriate target for small molecules. However, with Risdiplam, an approved drug targeting RNA splicing and multiple other candidate drugs currently in clinical trials, it is now clear that RNA levels can be modulated at different stages of its life cycle using small molecules e.g. RNA synthesis, processing, splicing, translation, and RNA-protein interactions.

The goal of targeting RNA using small molecules is to increase or decrease the overall RNA levels in a specific cell type or tissue of interest. When modulating coding RNA in particular, this can then have an effect on the underlying protein levels. This is a great opportunity to both target the undruggable proteomes, but also to significantly expand the druggable space by targeting non-coding RNAs.

The current early drug discovery process includes the selection of an RNA target as well as the regions within the RNA to modulate with small molecules. The key challenge today is to identify the specific RNA regions with structural and functional importance and to predict the biological effect upon small molecule binding and any off-target consequences. Typically, RNA can be thousands of bases long and will dynamically fold in some local stable forms often stabilized by interaction with proteins, so predicting where a small molecule should bind to generate the desired effect is challenging.

We invite you to propose the development of a platform that enables the assessment of the RNA target for a small molecule binding, focusing on the following key challenges:

  • For a given sequence of RNA, identify and rank the druggable regions along the RNA sequence that are most likely to be targeted by small molecules.

  • For a given druggable region, determine what is the likely functional effect of small molecules binding, e.g. increase or decrease of RNA levels and by which mechanism (splicing, translation, etc.).

  • Also, identify what is the potential off-target effect (prediction of similar regions across the coding/non-coding genome).

  • Wherever possible, predict the 3D structure of the druggable region and given a library of compounds, identify small molecules that are likely to bind to the predicted structure.

The new technology developed by the startup will be tested using a selected RNA target as a proof-of-concept. Very original ideas which go far beyond the current state-of-the-art are particularly encouraged.

The Scientist Founder role is intended to suit candidates who would like to build and lead a startup or aspire to develop themselves towards an entrepreneurship path.

Candidates for Scientist Co-Founder roles are expected to have technology experience, to pursue or have completed a PhD or equivalent, and have a certain degree of specialization in one or more relevant cutting-edge technologies or scientific areas including computational biology, bioinformatics, RNA biology, sequence analysis, computational chemistry, computer science / machine learning, language models and encryption methods.

What we offer

  • A role in a fully funded new startup company: the funding package covering salaries, services, travel costs, as well as access to core facilities in Israel and beyond.
  • Founders’ equity in the new startup company.
  • An initial funding package of at least $1M for the first two years, with working space provided in the AION Labs premises including wet and computational labs and access to our network of investors for additional funding.
  • Continuous guidance and support from experienced mentors from academia, the pharma industry, the tech industry, and venture capital.
  • An exciting opportunity to work in a multidisciplinary and international startup venture studio embedded in one of the strongest biomedical innovation ecosystems in Israel.

There is flexibility over starting dates, with a goal of launching the new startup during Q4 2024.

Application & Selection Process

  • Please apply online at
  • As part of the online application procedure, you will be asked to submit: (i) A competitive project proposal addressing the challenge of this call (3-5 pages describing your core hypothesis, scientific rationale, and unique approach to solve the challenge); (ii) Your curriculum vitae including your publication record.
  • Deadline for applications: April 14, 2024.
  • After a first selection round, candidates will be invited to a five-day innovation workshop in Israel from June 2 to 6, 2024. You will get a chance to receive feedback and guidance from experienced industry mentors. The candidates will jointly work on their project proposals and present them in front of a jury on the final day. Successful candidates will be offered the opportunity to found a startup company at AION Labs in Israel.

About AION Labs

AION Labs is a first-of-its-kind venture studio comprising AstraZeneca, Merck, Pfizer, Teva, the Isra-el Biotech Fund, Amiti Ventures, and Amazon Web Services (AWS), powered by BioMed X with the support of the Israeli Government via the Israel Innovation Authority, that have come together with one clear mission: to create and adopt groundbreaking new AI technologies that will transform the process of drug discovery and development in order to contribute to the health and well-being of all people world-wide.

AION Labs is a unique venture hub where brilliant innovators and scientist-founders convene from around the world to solve the biggest R&D challenges guided by years of accumulated know-how, data and experience in pharma. The lab leverages its partners’ wealth of knowledge and a new multidisciplinary mindset with the ingenuity, agility and innovative power of Israel’s start-up eco-system, to develop strong companies with clear long-term strategies, that will pave the way to the future of healthcare. AION Labs cultivates innovation from within; its unique venture creation pro-cess bridges the gap between outstanding academic research in the field of AI and the biggest R&D needs in the discovery and development of new medicines for the benefit of patients.

About BioMed X

BioMed X is an independent research institute with sites in Heidelberg, Germany, New Haven, Connecticut, XSeed Labs in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and a world-wide network of partner locations. We operate at the interface between academia and industry, performing biomedical research and drug discovery & development in the fields of oncology, immunology, neuroscience, platform technologies, and artificial intelligence. All our research projects are sponsored by leading pharmaceutical companies and conducted by early-career scientists recruited from the best schools around the world. The combination of global crowdsourcing with local incubation of the best research talents and ideas allows us to solve the biggest challenges in biomedical research. We stand for free, creative, and curiosity-driven research combined with a solid validation of results, timelines, and deliverables. We serve a large purpose in advancing translational biomedicine by leveraging synergies and fostering cross-pollination across disciplines.



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