“Some people call this artificial intelligence, but the reality is this technology will enhance us. So instead of artificial intelligence, I think we’ll augment our intelligence.” — Ginni Rometty
Best AI Startups in the Preclinical Phase (2021)
BenchSci (Toronto, 2015) (@BenchSci), a company that has been ranked 26 of the 50 Best Workplaces™ in Canada and certified a Great Place to Work® for the second consecutive year (2021), utilises AI to identify and resolve preclinical research inefficiencies and is committed to fight data reproducibility crisis in all biomedical realm, where unreliable antibodies are in part responsible of the crisis in life science (Reproducibility crisis: Blame it on the antibodies).
In particular, 80% of all life scientists use antibodies spending $3 billion per year on millions of different products, and less than 50% of these antibodies can be used effectively to look at protein distribution in preserved slices of tissue. Moreover, the largest vendors compete on catalogue size, so they often buy antibodies from smaller suppliers, relabel them and offer them for sale.
This means according to Bernard — head of the biotechnology consultancy Pivotal Scientific in Upper Heyford, UK — that the 2 million antibodies on the market probably represent 250,000–500,000 unique ‘core’ antibodies. So, in the end you have 80% of all life scientists spending time and money testing unknowingly the same antibodies (but with a different brand name) over and over again, wasting roughly $1,5 billion per year. And that’s a lot of money and time wasted.
For this reason BenchSci — backed by Google’s AI fund — uses proprietary ML, bioinformatics ontologies, image recognition technologies, filters and a figure-centric interface to enable rapid selection of experiment-specific antibodies.
On August 2021, it was announced that BenchSci appointed Bonita Stewart (a board partner at Gradient Ventures) to its board of directors. Before Gradient, Stewart spent 15 years with Google, most recently as Vice President, Global Partnerships.
BenchSci raised on February 2020 $22 million, bringing its total raised to $45 million.
Euretos (Zuid-Holland The Netherlands, 2012) (@Euretos) is an AI platform used for in-silico discovery and validation of targets and biomarkers. Euretos uses natural language processing (NLP) to interpret research papers (2- 2.5 million new scientific papers are published each year in about 28,100 active scholarly peer-reviewed journals), but this is secondary to the 200-plus biomedical-data repositories it integrates. To understand the research papers, the tool relies on the many ‘ontologies’ — that is, structured keyword lists — that life scientists have created to define and connect concepts in their subject areas.
On June 17 2021, Euretos announced the full access to its AI Platform will be available for free to all academic users. The integrated data, toolset and workflows that have long been used by the corporate research community in drug development are now made available to the academic research community.
Arctoris (Oxford UK) (@arctoris) is a drug discovery platform company that combines robotics, AI and blockchain to bring new drugs to patients, allowing scientists to directly configure a wide range of cancer research experiments online. Arctoris is not only capable of screening but is actually designed for fundamental research, encompassing a wide range of techniques: AI model training and validation, cell and molecular biology assays, biotech and target-based assays.
In other words, Arctoris is a fully automated laboratory that generates robust, reliable, reproducible data at scale, and is a globally operating platform company with an internal pipeline of drug discovery.
On September 2020, Arctoris signed a Memorandum of Understanding with listed Korean company Syntekabio Inc (a leading AI-driven drug discovery company that uses ML and supercomputing to discover new drugs) to collaborate on drug discovery efforts. Syntekabio will use Arctoris’ unique technology platform for biochemical and cell-based experiments including target-based assays and viability assessments.
Arctoris has raised a total of $10M on July 1, 2019.
Iktos (Paris, Ile-de-France, France, 2016) (@IktosAI) 🚀 is a AI startup for new drug design. Iktos is specialized in the development of AI solutions applied to chemical research, more specifically medicinal chemistry and new drug design. Iktos released Makya™, its generative AI-driven de novo design software for Multi-Parametric Optimization (MPO), available either as a SaaS platform or for implementation on customer premises or in the customer’s Virtual Private Cloud (VPC). Makya’s user-friendly interface enables it to be used by medicinal or computational chemists and can also be operated as a Python package through a Jupyter notebook interface. And Iktos just released Spaya™, and AI-based retrosynthesis platform, featuring several improvements to the software.
On May 2021, Iktos announced that it has entered into a Research Collaboration Agreement with Kadmon, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company based in USA, and Iktos’s AI technology will be used to enable the rapid and cost-effective design of novel drug candidates for an undisclosed Kadmon drug discovery program.
Also on May 2021, Iktos and UCB, a global biopharma company focusing on neurology and immunology, announced a software licensing agreement related to AI-based retrosynthesis analysis and planning tool Spaya™, which will be used to empower synthetic and medicinal chemistry projects for drug design and discovery of new chemical entities within UCB.
Synthace’s (London UK, 2011) (@Synthace) has developed a ‘no-code’ cloud platform for life sciences, which addresses complexity, speed and reproducibility for scientists while lowering the barrier to automated biological experimentation. Central to its technology is Antha, a cloud-based software platform that spreads biological information in a repeatable way, linking lab equipment, protocols and processes, thereby allowing vast and speedy development, enhancing productivity.
On June 2020, Synthace and the Tecan Group announced a partnership to deepen the integration between Synthace’s Antha software and Tecan’s Te-Chrom automated chromatography system to unlock the full potential of miniaturized protein purification.
Synthace has raised a total of $46M on March 31, 2021.
Emerald Cloud Lab (ECL) (California US) was founded in 2010 by two scientists from Philadelphia — D.J. Kleinbaum and Brian Frezz — frustrated by the exponentially increasing R&D costs in the pharmaceutical sector.
For that reason they filled Emerald Cloud Lab’s warehouse with million-dollar robots and users can log on to their website from anywhere in the world, enter the experimental protocol that they’d like to perform, and the robots will take care of the rest. As of July 2020, ECL offered full control of over 150 laboratory instruments, with plans to expand capabilities outlined through 2021.
On September 2, 2021, Carnegie Mellon University and ECL announced they are joining to build a remote-controlled lab at a site in Pittsburgh owned by the university. The $40 million facility is expected to be completed by mid-2022.
ECL has raised a total of $92.1M on April 19, 2019 and has a post-money valuation in the range of $100M to $500M as of Jun 1, 2015. Among the investors you can find Founders Fund — where Peter Thiel is a partner.
But there is another company out there offering a robotic cloud laboratory for the life sciences: Transcriptic, now Strateos.
Transcriptic (California US, 2012) is a SaaS-based biotechnology company providing also robotic solutions for biology labs, using the power of automation along with AI and ML. One similarity between ECL and Transcriptic is that they both share some of the same investors, like Peter Thiel. On June 2019 Transcriptic and 3Scan — a digital 3D tissue model specialist — announced a merger to form the company Strateos (@StrateosLab). The newly formed entity combines the engineering capabilities of the two previous companies to help automate chemical, biological and 3D image analysis in a closed loop robotic laboratory.
On June 2021, Stateos raised $56.1 million in a series B investment round led by DCVC and Lux Capital.
On July 13 2021, Strateos has launched its SmartLab Software which enables research organisations of any size to manage scientific workflows in-house while integrating automation with a modular, cloud-based software platform. Strateos has two remote access laboratories—SmartLabs—in Menlo Park and San Diego, California.
Berkeley Lights (California US, 2011) (@berkeley_lights) provides technology solutions for antibody discovery, cell line development, cell therapy development and synthetic biology, in order to automate drug discovery/development and genomic research. Their mission is to accelerate the use of cell-based products by providing researchers access to the Berkeley Lights Platform to find the best cells in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods.
On August 11, 2021, Berkeley Lights announced a multi-year agreement with Bayer to develop and perform high-throughput functional screening workflows aimed at accelerating and expanding the discovery of novel traits. The outcome will be a significant acceleration of the agricultural leader’s pipeline for discovery and development of novel traits. This agreement marks the first application of Berkeley Lights’ technology for use in the agricultural sector.
Berkeley Lights has raised a total of $252.6M on Oct 10, 2018 and has a post-money valuation in the range of $500M to $1B as of Oct 15, 2018.
Evaxion Biotech (Copenhagen, Denmark, 2008) (@EvaxionB) is a preclinical-clinical AI immunology™ platform company aiming to develop novel immunotherapies to treat cancer and infectious diseases. PIONEER is their proprietary AI platform for the rapid discovery and design of patient-specific neoepitopes used to derive immuno-oncology therapies. EDEN is their second AI platform that rapidly identifies novel, highly protective antigens for the use in pathogen-specific prophylactic vaccines against bacteria, and RAVEN is their third proprietary AI platform that brings unique ML approach to vaccine design and development for viral diseases.
On June 2021, Evaxion Biotech announced the acceptance of a new scientific paper that describes BIFROST, a novel predictive system based on deep probabilistic programming that enables the rapid conversion of sequence data into structural information on protein fragments.
Evaxion Biotech has raised a total of $17M.
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