Artificial Intelligence
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French biotech Bioptimus officially launched this week, as it seeks to build the first universal AI foundation model for biology.

AI foundation models have previously gained exposure for underpinning ChatGPT, a well-publicized chatbot that uses natural language processing to create human-like conversations.

Bioptimus plans to use the computational power of foundation modeling to connect biology at different scales and link molecules to cells, tissues and entire organisms.

Through this, it hopes to gain a holistic understanding of biology and create scientific breakthroughs and speed biotechnological innovation, becoming a leader for AI in biology.

Bioptimus co-founder and CEO Jean-Philippe Vert, PhD, a former research lead at deep learning AI research team Google Brain, said: “The application of foundation models and generative AI to biology is set to have a profound impact in science.

“By harnessing the power of foundation models and advanced algorithms trained on massive amounts of biological and multimodal data across scales, we aim to capture the laws of biology that have hitherto remained too complex to be properly understood.”

The company emerged from stealth mode after successfully raising $35M in seed funding, with the investment led by European venture capital firm Sofinnova Partners.

“Foundation models in biology are game-changers,” said Edward Kliphuis, a partner at Sofinnova Partners.

“They unlock unprecedented potential to personalize medicine, capturing the uniqueness of each individual while harnessing the collective knowledge of all.”

Other contributors included the French public sector investment bank BpiFrance, which invested as part of its €1B Large Venture fund that is focused on fast-growing, capital intensive and promising innovative companies that have already raised capital.

BpiFrance Large Venture senior investment director Laurent Higueret said: “Bioptimus holds the promise to go even deeper in the analysis of patients’ data across multiple levels and help unveil biological connections hitherto unthought-of.”

Other investors included Frst and global venture capital platform Cathay Innovation, together with global tech investors Headline, Hummingbird, NJF Capital, Owkin and Top Harvest Capital and tech entrepreneur Xavier Niel.

The company brings together engineers and research scientists with expertise in machine learning and biological data modeling. Key partnerships mean it can access large quantities of diverse data.

The company includes former researchers at AI research lab Google DeepMind and experts at techbio Owkin, a start-up that has so far raised $300M and combines wet-lab experiments with AI technology to create a feedback loop that drives discovery and innovation.

Owkin is a key Bioptimus partner and uses the collaborative AI framework of federated learning to access up-to-date patient data while maintaining privacy. It previously founded MOSAIC, the largest multi-omics atlas for cancer research.

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