FAQs on translation at Arcadia
Arcadia is an experiment. Over the past year, we’ve shared some of what we are building and testing. As we start the new year, we’d like to tell you more about the translational arm of our experiment.
Arcadia is a crew of entrepreneurial scientists who want to solve real-world problems. We look to nature as the ultimate problem-solver — after all, every living organism is the result of millions or billions of years of evolutionary optimization. We study all sorts of creatures to discover biological innovations, providing a rich playground of solutions that we can co-opt to address human challenges.
We think this focus creates a wealth of commercial opportunity that we can capture for good. We hypothesize that we can use our own revenue to financially sustain curiosity-driven, exploratory science at Arcadia. Strategically recycling the value of our discoveries in this way could enable longer-term and more ambitious scientific goals.
This is a critical test for us. We want to build a financially sustainable, basic science-driven company that accelerates human progress and attracts mission-minded investors. We hope our model will be replicable by others in the future, drawing more resources and talent into the broader scientific ecosystem.
We’re still iterating on our translational strategy, but there are some things we know. Below are answers to the top five questions we get asked about the business side of Arcadia.
1. What is your value proposition?
We are conducting exploratory and early-stage research in-house that bridges discovery and translation. Right now, our primary focus is to spin out companies at roughly Series A stage, although we are open to a range of other assets. While we’re considering many impact areas, our current research best matches key opportunity spaces in therapeutics, climate, and synbio.
At the end of the day, science is our north star. We are scientists, after all. The opportunities we see in our research will guide our asset portfolio.
2. Why structure Arcadia as a for-profit company?
We get this question a lot. Given our emphasis on biology across the tree of life, our for-profit status often catches people off guard. Setting up Arcadia this way was a deliberate design choice. To make Arcadia financially sustainable, a for-profit structure was the most straightforward structure for our goals. And we’d like to normalize for-profit companies investing in basic science, which could attract funding for more scientific enterprises in the future.
It’s true that our financial goals are technically achievable as a non-profit. But in non-profit organizations, employees don’t share directly in financial wins. We think it’s important to be co-incentivized with our scientists and operators. We want Arcadians to feel a deep sense of ownership and agency. And we hope this spurs the next generation of science investors.
3. Do you have funding?
Yes, we are lucky to have two unicorn investors — Jed McCaleb and Sam Altman — who are fully aligned with us in all our goals. In fact, the original motivator for each was to leverage this opportunity to re-think how science is done. They have both pushed us to think outside the box and take risks.
They have committed funding that could sustain a team of 150 people (with competitive biotech salaries) for about a decade. However, we will tailor our growth to our evolving scientific and financial goals, which may result in fewer people and a longer time horizon than originally projected. We also hope to become financially sustainable before using all of our seed funding.
4. How do you balance commercial efforts with open science publishing goals?
This is a central part of our ongoing experiment (see here and here) – one that we find both exciting and challenging. We want our open science publishing to not just coexist, but synergize with our translational goals. Open discussion about our work will accelerate progress beyond what’s possible in isolation. We are testing this prediction by iterating on publishing and patenting strategies throughout the entire scientific and translational process. We recognize that the interplay between publishing and patenting is a unique challenge, and we are fully prepared to make mistakes and share lessons learned along the way.
If successful, this experiment could unlock a lot of science outside of traditional academia, much of which is never shared. We are joining many others to iterate on useful ways to publish outside journals, while remaining discoverable and interoperable within the broader scientific infrastructure. We’d like to see research-sharing become the norm for science-focused companies.
5. Do you fund external efforts or collaborate with universities?
No. We focus on internal research and spin-outs. Also, to carry out our organization-scale experiment, it’s important to remain untethered from systems with different goals and incentive structures.
This is a broad overview of our plans, but we have already started many experiments to our translational approach. We will share more details over time through this blog and our publishing platform. In the meantime, keep asking us questions.