Bioptimus primed with $35m to unravel disease biology using AI

French startup founded by former Google DeepMind talent aims to build first ‘universal AI foundation model’ for biology.

Paris-based AI startup Bioptimus has emerged from stealth, securing seed funding of $35 million to advance its mission to generate computational representations that capture the full diversity of biology.

The company aims to develop the first “universal AI foundation model” for biology, leveraging high volumes of diverse, multimodal, and multiscale data to provide a comprehensive understanding of biology – from molecules and cells to tissues and entire organisms. Should it be successful in its mission, a better understanding of biology could also help shed light on the mysteries of the aging process, which is still poorly understood.

Led by Professor Jean-Philippe Vert, Bioptimus has assembled a team of scientists, including experts from Google DeepMind and French TechBio company Owkin. The company will benefit from its close ties with Owkin, which boasts advanced data generation capabilities and federated global access to multimodal patient data from leading academic hospitals worldwide, coupled with a secure computing environment.

Vert, who is also Chief R&D Officer of Owkin and former Research Lead at Google Brain, said that AI was set to have a “profound impact” in biology.

“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,” he added. “This holistic understanding of biology across scales will be critical to accelerate biomedical and environmental science.”

The funding round was led by Sofinnova Partners, with support from Bpifrance Large Venture and participation from French funds Frst and Cathay Innovation, alongside tech investors Headline, Hummingbird, NJF Capital, Owkin, Top Harvest Capital, and tech entrepreneur Xavier Niel.

“Foundation models in biology are game-changers,” said Edward Kliphuis, Partner at Sofinnova Partners. “They unlock unprecedented potential to personalize medicine, capturing the uniqueness of each individual while harnessing the collective knowledge of all.”