Imagine a model for collaborative research and development between hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, universities and other research institutions where no one has actually exchanged data.
This is the dream of the New York startup Owkin. The company has raised $ 25 million in new funds from investors, including Bpifrance Large Venture, Cathay innovation and MACSF (the French pension fund for clinicians), together with previous investors GV, F-Prime Capital and Eight streets.
The company believes that data scientists, clinical doctors, academics, and pharmaceutical companies can enroll in the virtual lab that Owkin calls the Owkin Studio.
In this virtual environment, all parties can only access anonymized data sets and models in order to refine their own research and development work as well as studies and to ensure that the latest knowledge about new biomarkers, mechanisms of action and prediction models influence the work of all parties involved relevant parties.
The company's ultimate goal is to improve patient outcomes.
In an effort to get more companies and institutions to open and share information – with the promise that the information cannot be extracted or used in a way that is not permitted by the owners of the data – Owkin replicates the work of track other companies in areas ranging from healthcare to financial services and beyond.
Israeli company Qedit has developed similar technologies for the financial services industry, and Sympatic, a graduate of one of the youngest groups of tech stars, is working on similar technologies for the healthcare industry.
Owkin makes money by giving pharmaceutical companies remote access to the data sets and licensing the models developed by universities to these companies. In this way, the company can tempt researchers to join the platform and provide another source of income for research institutions whose funding has declined over the past 40 years.
"We have a huge loop of academic universities that have access to the data and develop algorithms, and we share data, ”said the company's general manager, Dr. Thomas Clozel. "In the end it helps to develop better medication."
Owkins investment from new and existing investors brings the company to a total of $ 55 million raised by extending its Series A round. The round totaled $ 52 million, Clozel said.
"We are right where we need to be because privacy is important and privacy is more important than ever," said Clozel.
The COVID-19 epidemic has highlighted the need for closer collaboration between different companies and research institutions, and this has also increased the demand for the company's technology. "It touches everything … We have access to the right data sets and centers to create the best models for COVID," said Clozel. "We are lucky to have the right traction before the COVID occurs and we have the right research that has been done."
In fact, the company launched it Covid-19 Open AI Consortium (COAI) and uses its platform to advance collaborative research and accelerate the clinical development of effective treatments for coronavirus-infected patients. All results are shared with the global medical and scientific communities.
The initial research focus is on cardiovascular complications in COVID-19 patients in collaboration with CAPACITY, an international registry that works with over 50 centers worldwide, the company said. According to Owkin, further research areas will be the results and triage of the patients as well as the prediction and characterization of the immune response.
"Since we first supported Owkin in 2017, we've shared his vision of using AI to fight one of the most terrifying diseases in the world: cancer," he said Jacky Abitbol, partner at Cathay Innovation. "Owkin has become a leader in digital health. We are proud to increase our investment in the company to strengthen its ambition as an AI pioneer in medical research while ensuring patient privacy and data security. "