Bioptimus born with $35m for a foundation model for biology

Prof Jean-Phillipe Vert, Owkin's chief R&D officer

Bioptimus is led by Prof Jean-Phillipe Vert, chief R&D officer at Owkin

A team of scientists formerly working at Google DeepMind and Owkin have joined forces to create Bioptimus, a start-up that will apply generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) to the discovery, development, and use of personalised medicines.

The new company, based in Paris, France, starts life with $35 million in funding from a consortium led by Sofinnova Partners with Bpifrance Large Venture and other backers, including Owkin, which will provide support including access to a computing environment powered by Amazon Web Services.

Its aim is to create “a global leader in AI for biology in France,” applying large language models (LLMs) and GenAI to “capture the laws of biology that hitherto remained too complex to be properly understood,” according to chief executive and co-founder, Professor Jean-Philippe Vert.

Vert is a former research lead at Google Brain and chief R&D officer at Owkin, which has a platform that allows AI models to be developed based on thousands of patient samples without the need to pool data and has already attracted a string of pharma partners, including MSD, Servier, and Genmab.

“The application of foundation models and generative AI to biology is set to have a profound impact in science” and will usher in “a holistic understanding of biology across scales that will be critical to accelerate biomedical and environmental science,” he said.

Bioptimus is focusing on a “foundation model” for biology, i.e., a machine learning framework that is trained on broad data and can be applied across a wide range of use cases, spanning the scale of atoms and molecules to cells, tissues, organs, and entire organisms.

“Foundation models in biology are game-changers. They unlock unprecedented potential to personalise medicine, capturing the uniqueness of each individual, while harnessing the collective knowledge of all,” said Sofinnova partner Edward Kliphuis, who has joined Bioptimus’ board of directors.

“Bioptimus stands out by seamlessly blending unparalleled data resources and access, elite talent, and extensive computational power,” added.

Other co-founders of the company include Rodolphe Jenatton, who is serving as Bioptomus’ chief technology officer, along with principal research scientists Zelda Mariet and Felipe Llinares, all formerly at Google DeepMind.

Vert’s co-founders from Owkin are David Cahané and Eric Durand, respectively general manager and deputy general manager at the new company.