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Bringing the power of AI to biology – Why we invested in Algorithmic Biologics

By Nidhi Mathur & Prachi Sinha
Jan 11, 2022
3 min read
Venture Capital Labs

Algorithms are magic that we see all around us without realizing. We are so used to them and yet find it so difficult to visualize that there is so much more that is yet to come.

They manage transmission of more data per hour than what is contained in all libraries of the world put together. They capture, brighten and store memories as images, sounds and videos. They can look at mind-boggling amounts of data and find the most perfect route, price, or purchase item for us. They are out of sight but touch almost every aspect of modern life today. All except one.

Biology has remained one last frontier. There have been limited successes in building algorithms for digital health and drug discovery. But Biology, in general, is opposite of what algorithms need for them to work. It is qualitative, serendipitous, and unpredictable.

But the ongoing pandemic has clearly outlined the necessity for us to move faster than what trial-and-error based biological processes allow us. We saw pandemic raging due to insufficient testing, supply-chain hindrances and hence, delayed action. We don’t have decades to find the biological solutions we need. We need to bring the power of algorithms to biology for us to accelerate our abilities to work with nature.

Dr Manoj Gopalkrishnan, Professor at IIT Bombay and alumnus of University of South California, has a unique interdisciplinary background that transcends molecular biology and computer science. He is a leading molecular computing expert who applied computational innovation to solve covid testing challenges during the first wave. In our conversations, it quickly became clear that the innovation potentially has applicability across sectors that use molecular information on not just pathogens, but also humans, plants, or animals.

Ambition and Resourcefulness

What is more impressive about Dr Manoj is the high standards he sets for himself and his ability to go very far with the limited resources he has. He used grants and worked with academic collaborators to get his idea to a clinically validated stage. He reached the finals of XPrize, only second Indian innovation to ever do so, and without any external funding. In nine months since incorporation, his startup has not only raised a seed round, but also achieved regulatory clearances in India, CE certification, reached pre-revenue stage with multiple top customers across sectors using the technological platform built by the company.

Ability to attract top talent

Algorithmic Biologics is a talent-driven startup that has several multidisciplinary PhDs from top universities across the globe and IIT/IIM graduates solving complex problems. Their ongoing research and development collaborators are best and most respected in the field. The cutting edge nature of work is helping them attract talent who are ambitious and impact-oriented.

Niche Vertical with a Huge Upside Potential

A convergence of advances in biological sciences—decades in the making—with the accelerating development of computing, automation, and artificial intelligence (AI), is fueling a new wave of innovation. This is likely to have a significant impact on economies and societies, from health and agriculture to consumer goods and energy. These new capabilities and applications are already improving our response to global challenges from climate change to pandemics. While the research itself may originate from academic institutions, partnering with the right kind of support from the ecosystem is key to really harnessing the true potential of these innovations.

We have always believed that scientific innovations as entrepreneurial spin-offs will be built in India but applicable to global problems. In addition to Covid, Algorithmic Biologics has also explored other industrial applications in agricultural R&D. They are in talks and have signed MoUs with two of the largest seed/ F&B R&D companies in India. Applications such as low-cost, high-throughput microarrays have vastly increased the amount of plant and animal sequencing data, enabling lower-cost artificial selection of desirable traits based on genetic markers in both plants and animals. The application, once extended to these sectors, holds the key to scaling precision of a sample to millions.

We believe that molecular diagnostics innovation traditionally has two dimensions: (i) hardware platforms, and  (ii) chemistry. Algorithmic Biologics is introducing a third dimension- algorithmic innovation. The innovation is unique in that it is low-risk, low-cost, and high-impact. Such innovation requires a unique transdisciplinary approach with expertise spanning molecular science, algorithms and data science, and process optimization. We believe Manoj and the team he has put together, is the right combination to build a successful, science-led enterprise. We are excited to join hands with them on their very ambitious journey.

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