Genome analysis company DeepTrait announced a funding milestone for its new technology that uses artificial intelligence-based algorithms to decipher genetic information. Polish seed capital fund StarFinder and the National Center for Research and Development (Bridge Alfa program) have contributed a total of $300,000.
DeepTrait technology analyzes large volumes of sequenced genomes; the new tool works with the "raw" genome directly at the nucleotide level and can inexpensively extract significant areas hundreds of times faster than current methods.
“The rapid development of analytical methods made it possible to fully read the genomes but we are still far from understanding how they work,” said Sergii Shelpuk, co-founder of DeepTrait. “The cost of sequencing a single genome has fallen exponentially to less than $1,000. At the same time, the quality of the reading has increased significantly. This opens up new possibilities for genome analysis using big data that DeepTrait will exploit.
DeepTrait has already successfully verified the technology. In a simulation, the artificial intelligence algorithm was able to find the “gene” that researchers “hid” in the artificial genomes. Additionally, it correctly identified mutations that made the gene inactive. With this new round of funding, they plan to bring the product to the market and land the first contract.
“In my work, I’m rather a skeptic and a bore, but I was very surprised when I saw the results of our pilot experiments,” said Ruslana Radchuk, DeepTrait’s other founder. “This new genomic research tool opens up tremendous opportunities for discovery. I think that the real surprises still await us ahead.”
The company says the technology’s main application is identification of coding and non-coding areas of the genome that directly cause a particular trait. They promise that using DeepTrait will reduce the role of luck or chance that is a factor in much of today’s research.
Ultimately, Shelpuk says they hope DeepTrait will help solve many of our food-related problems.
“Is it possible to improve the balance of proteins, fats and carbohydrates in our food without changing our diet? Can you ‘teach’ plants to produce fertilizers on their own…or to successfully endure arid conditions? Can you provide high quality food to all of humanity on Earth or even on other planets? The answers lie in the genomes.”
DeepTrait was founded in 2018 by Ruslana Radchuk and Sergii Shelpuk. Ruslana is a research scientist at the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research, Gatersleben, Germany. She is the author of more than 30 papers in the field of molecular/cellular biology and genetic engineering of crop plants. Sergii previously led data science at SoftServe, VITech and Eleks; he also taught machine learning and artificial intelligence at the Ukrainian Catholic University.
The company is assisted by Professor Yuri Gleba, a renowned biotechnologist and entrepreneur. He is a member of a number of European academies of sciences, the author of hundreds of scientific papers and patents, and has received the international Koerber and Humboldt Foundations award. Yuri is also the founder and CEO of several companies in the field of biotechnology and medicine. His company NOMAD Bioscience is interested in DeepTrait technology as a potential customer.
StarFinder is a Polish seed capital fund, looking for investment opportunities across Central and Eastern European (CEE) in life sciences, engineering and IT. The fund focuses on the projects that have strong intellectual property, ambitious teams and target large or untapped markets.
The company DeepTrait implements the R&D project. The value of the project we implement is PLN 1 million, and the contribution from the European Funds accounts for 80% of this amount. Support for the project was obtained under the grant project" StartVenture @ Poland 2 - Start your high-tech business in Poland "- co-financed from the European Regional Development Fund under the Intelligent Development Operational Program 1.3: R&D works financed with capital funds; 1.3.1: Support for research and development projects in the preseed phase by the proof of concept funds - BRIdge Alfa Edition 1 / 1.3.1 / 2016.