June 25 - EvolutionaryScale, an artificial intelligence startup focused on biology, said Tuesday it had raised $142 million in seed funding, led by Nat Friedman, Daniel Gross and Lux Capital.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the venture capital arm of NVIDIA also participated in the fund raising.

Calling it a "ChatGPT moment for biology," Lux Capital co-founder and managing partner Josh Wolfe told Reuters the company has developed the first large language model for creating novel proteins and other biological systems.

EvolutionaryScale envisions its AI being utilized for a wide range of applications, from accelerating drug discovery to engineering microbes capable of breaking down plastic in the environment, the company's chief scientist Alex Rives told Reuters.

Using AI to engineer new biological systems is currently an area of intense interest.

Microsoft-backed OpenAI announced a partnership with French drugmaker Sanofi in May to boost its drug development projects using AI.

At the same time, experts have also raised alarm bells about generative AI's potential to help create bioweapons, through aiding the development of harmful pathogens or toxins.

EvolutionaryScale's funding will be used to train its next generation of AI models as well as build out a team to partner with the biotech industry, Rives said.

The company is releasing models named ESM3. The smaller ESM3 model is being open sourced for non-commercial research, and AWS and NVIDIA will make the models available commercially, including its largest ESM3 model, the company said.

The company said it leveraged ESM3 to engineer a novel fluorescent protein that diverged from the evolutionary path of naturally occurring fluorescent proteins, which would have taken nature about 500 million years to evolve. (Reporting by Anna Tong in San Francisco; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)