PMWC caught up with Alex Zhavoronkov, CEO of Insilico Medicine, the winner of PMWC’s 2015 Most Promising Company Competition to get an update on the company’s progress and tease out some advice for this year’s Company Showcase Competition contenders.

Alex told us that PMWC Silicon Valley 2015 was a landmark event in the company’s history and allowed their team to believe in themselves because it was a positive first test of investor appetite. Today, Alex looks at Insilico as the “Bell Labs for AI in healthcare” with more than 200 different projects that they are taking to proof of concept and then either licensing out or creating joint ventures around.

Company Update Highlights:

  • Hired the top deep learning talent all over the world through hackathons and then trained them in bioinformatics.
  • Launched several biomarkers developed using a new approach to AI, discovered a range of targets and molecules that are going through validation. Partnered with Life Extension, which launched two Insilico nutraceutical products. Currently capturing the effectiveness of these nutraceuticals using a system called Young.AI, available online. Over 65,000 people worldwide bought the nutraceuticals in first six months since launch.
  • In 2017, NVIDIA selected Insilico Medicine as one of the Top 5 AI companies based on potential for social impact.
  • Breakthrough at the end of 2015. Began using a new technique in deep learning first proposed by Ian Goodfellow,called Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) that allows “imagining” new objects with a specific set of characteristics. Coupled that with “reinforcement learning”, the technique used by Deep Mind to defeat the Go champion, to generate novel molecular structures with a desired set of characteristics.
  • Published the first proofs of concept and quickly became popular in the pharma world.
  • At JP Morgan 2016, met with top biotech investors and pharma executives. Met partners of Jim Mellon, the “British Warren Buffett”, who invested in Insilico and formed a separate company with Greg Bailey, who recently sold Medivation for $14.5 billion, and Declan Doogan, developer of Zoloft, Lipitor and Viagra. This all-star team is now developing molecules for age-related diseases generated entirely using AI.
  • This same team led the most recent round of funding.
  • Expanded into Asia with R&D centers in Taiwan, Republic of China and Hong Kong,as well as a JV in Korea, with a focus on cosmetics applications. Working on expanding into China.
Q: Everyone is talking about the China’s big push into AI. What is happening in China?

 

A: China is the new Silicon Valley and the new frontier in human development. Everyone I know there is working on a startup. There is abundant capital to fuel growth and the large corporations are open to collaboration. Even some of the Big Pharma country heads in China are more innovative and have more freedom to operate than their counterparts in the open innovation departments at headquarters

In China people have a very different attitude toward personal data. For instance, when you buy a SIM card a picture is taken of you with your passport open. This really propels innovation much faster than in other geographies. The availability of large data sets and the freedom to work with the data also ignites innovation there. Tencent, the company that runs WeChat, Alibaba, Baidu, WuXi, BGI, is pushing very hard into AI with all the companies.  And if AI is the new combustion engine and the data is the new electricity, China is the new epicenter of a data-driven economy.

However, the problem they will be facing soon is population specificity with some of the biomarkers and biological targets. When you use only Chinese data to build your predictors, classifiers and generators the systems will be very biased and may not work in European and other populations.

One of the technologies that will help Chinese companies as well as the rest of the world access human health data in a very ethical and secure way is blockchain. And it turns out that some of our projects in AI can help with that.

I am very happy to see that Chinese AI companies are among the participants of PMWC Silicon Valley 2018 and we are very much looking forward to establishing fruitful collaborations.

Q: To be the leader in AI you need a lot of data. You mentioned blockchain as one of the potential enablers of secure and efficient data acquisition. Can you elaborate?

 

A: Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology which can be used to enable individuals to take control of their life data. Currently there is a disconnect between individuals, medical institutions, laboratories, pharmaceutical companies and regulators. This disconnect is resulting in unnecessary regulatory barriers. Also individuals often don’t know what data they have, how useful it is and they don’t have the ability to sell or license their data to companies.

Our AI can show them how valuable their various types of data is– individually and in combination and in time. We published a seminar paper on this subject. We also partnered with one of the largest companies in blockchain technology called BitFury Group, which helps put entire governments on blockchain to develop the “Internet of human life data”. We formed a subsidiary called Longenesis, Limited, to unlock the value of multi-omics data and allow companies and researchers to gain access to the vast amounts of data from various population groups internationally.

We are also planning to introduce a new crypto token called LifePound which will allow people to profit from their data in more ways than was previously imaginable. In theory, governments be will able to introduce a universal basic income to people who regularly provide their life data for research purposes while encouraging them to pursue healthy lifestyles.

Longenesis may be one of the highest-impact projects in our portfolio. We already have the working prototype running on BitFury’s Exonum blockchaiin platform and data verification, quality control, trust rating and authentication system. It uses our deep learning systems and a small team is in Hong Kong working on the Longenesis “Life on Blockchain” pilot. We are presenting this system at conferences throughout Africa such as in Nigeria, South Africa, and Botswana to ensure that they are the early adopters when we launch. Africa may become the next “Saudi Arabia” of data and we may be able to improve millions of lives by empowering the people to take control of their life data, their health while gaining access to the most disruptive technologies: AI, blockchain and longevity biotechnology.

Q: At PMWC 2015 you were focused on aging research. Did your focus shift?

A: Absolutely not. Our bet on aging research really paid off. We treat aging as a disease that every living creature has and chronological age as the stage of this disease. When you train the deep neural networks to predict age using different data types: Pictures, blood tests, tissue-specific transcriptomes, proteomes, imaging data, microbiome, voice, videos, wearable data and even data from the electronic nose (a device that identifies the specific components of an odor and analyzes its chemical makeup to identify it), the Deep Neural Networks capture the most biologically-relevant features and you can integrate multi-omics data. You can later extract the most important features and use them as targets, or re-train the DNNs on the various diseases, when only a limited number of samples are available. We understand that a person today is different from the same person tomorrow. Essentially we are our age. During aging we change at every level. We now realize that age is probably the most important and universal feature every living being has. I already explained why age is important for training the Deep Neural Networks to predict age on multi-modal data and to developing biomarkers, and to understanding the population specificity of biomarkers, for example. When people think about personalized medicine, they think about the differences between people. But when you think about the same person at a different age as a different person, you get much more value from the data and understand the value of the various data types. A very simple example of this is cancer immune therapy. The person may respond very well to checkpoint inhibitors in his 50s and 60s, but may not respond to the same therapy in his 70s and 80s, due to immune senescence and changes in many other systems.

Even the blockchain projects at Insilico utilize aging research for life data quality control, authentication, and verification as well as for reconstruction of incomplete data sets. Age is the most important feature for us and we want to track it at every level. We regularly run hackathons at AgeNet.Net and other resources to build the predictors of both chronological and biological age using any data type. We also helped conceive MouseAge.org to do the same in mice and hopefully, in other animals. We want to see aging, feel aging, smell aging and build a virtual model of aging to be able to understand the effects of aging on disease.

Q: What are your long-term plans as a company, say 10 years out?

A: Our very long term plan is to achieve excellence in AI for longevity and to refocus from treatment to prevention. Think aging without losing. Ultimately we would like to make humans more resistant to age-associated changes and to changes in the environment. Making humans more age-resistant, radiation-resistant and infectious disease-resistant is the long term goal of the company.

Q: Do you have any advice for the 2018 PMWC contenders?

A: The jury is comprised of professional VCs. VCs like to hear about the technology, the business model, and the team as well as the go-to-market strategy. So it is really a straight forward VC pitch. PMWC Silicon Valley 2018 will be the highlight of a very transformative year in human history. And it looks like everyone in AI for healthcare will be there. If you’re interested in AI, you should be there and invite your friends to attend.

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University of Michigan

The 14th Precision Medicine World Conference (PMWC) will take place at the University of Michigan on June 6-7, 2018. This conference coincides with University of Michigan’s launch of a new Precision Health research initiative that integrates U of M’s strengths in Medicine, Engineering, Pharmacy, and Public Health. (hyperlink) This initiative combines biomedical expertise, big data, and the social sciences enabling a comprehensive approach to providing patients with tailored health solutions.

To support the University of Michigan’s goal to bring together leading researchers from across the university and the country to springboard this new and exciting research initiative, PMWC and U-M have agreed that the campus is an optimal location for the next conference. This forum will showcase practical content that helps close the knowledge gap among different sectors, thereby catalyzing cross-functional fertilization and collaboration to benefit both University of Michigan and PMWC attendees.

The program will feature innovative technologies, and analyze the success of already thriving initiatives and clinical case studies that enable the translation of precision medicine into direct improvements in health care. Conference attendees will have an opportunity to learn first-hand about the latest developments and advances in precision medicine and cutting-edge strategies and solutions that are fundamentally changing how patients are treated. This is reflected in the Program Theme: “Big Data in Action: Data-driven Insights in the Clinic”.

Agenda highlights:

    • More than 35 sessions with 100+ thought-provoking, insightful talks that cover all facets of precision medicine
    • Two tracks will showcase sessions on the latest advancements in precision medicine which include, but are not limited to:
    • Changing Pharmacogenomics
    • Community Setting Challenges
    • Patient Issues and Challenges
    • Legal and Ethical Issues
    • Integrating genomic data into EMRs
    • Emerging Technologies
    • Personalized Health Care Delivery
    • Personalized Modeling of Precision Health
    • NIH’s All of Us Study
    • Big Data in Action
    • Opioid Precision Health
    • Neurosciences
    • Big Data in the Clinic
    • Wellness and Aging
    • Epigenetics and Aging
    • Precision Cancer Therapy
    • Data Sharing in Translational Medicine
    • Economic and Socio-political Issues

The 14th Precision Medicine World Conference (PMWC) will take place at the University of Michigan on June 6-7, 2018. This conference coincides with University of Michigan’s launch of a new Precision Health research initiative that integrates U of M’s strengths in Medicine, Engineering, Pharmacy, and Public Health. (hyperlink) This initiative combines biomedical expertise, big data, and the social sciences enabling a comprehensive approach to providing patients with tailored health solutions.

To support the University of Michigan’s goal to bring together leading researchers from across the university and the country to springboard this new and exciting research initiative, PMWC and U-M have agreed that the campus is an optimal location for the next conference. This forum will showcase practical content that helps close the knowledge gap among different sectors, thereby catalyzing cross-functional fertilization and collaboration to benefit both University of Michigan and PMWC attendees.

The program will feature innovative technologies, and analyze the success of already thriving initiatives and clinical case studies that enable the translation of precision medicine into direct improvements in health care. Conference attendees will have an opportunity to learn first-hand about the latest developments and advances in precision medicine and cutting-edge strategies and solutions that are fundamentally changing how patients are treated. This is reflected in the Program Theme: “Big Data in Action: Data-driven Insights in the Clinic”.

Agenda highlights:

    • More than 35 sessions with 100+ thought-provoking, insightful talks that cover all facets of precision medicine
    • Two tracks will showcase sessions on the latest advancements in precision medicine which include, but are not limited to:
        • Changing Pharmacogenomics
        • Community Setting Challenges
        • Patient Issues and Challenges
        • Legal and Ethical Issues
        • Integrating genomic data into EMRs
        • Emerging Technologies
        • Personalized Health Care Delivery
        • Personalized Modeling of Precision Health
        • NIH’s All of Us Study
        • Big Data in Action
        • Opioid Precision Health
        • Neurosciences
        • Big Data in the Clinic
        • Wellness and Aging
        • Epigenetics and Aging
        • Precision Cancer Therapy
        • Data Sharing in Translational Medicine
        • Economic and Socio-political Issues

 

Confirmed thought leaders include:

Lee Hood

Lee Hood

Chief Science Officer, Providence Health

Eric Topol

Eric Topol

Chief Academic Officer, Scripps Health

Francis Collins

Francis Collins

Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Vicki L. Ellingrod

Vicki L. Ellingrod

Ass. Dir., Michigan Inst. for Clinical & Health Research

Goncalo Abecasis

Goncalo Abecasis

Chair, Department of Biostatistics, UM

Jeffrey Leiden

Jeffrey Leiden

Chairman, President and CEO, Vertex

Matthias Kretzler

Matthias Kretzler

Professor, Nephrology & Internal Medicine, UM

Arul Chinnaiyan

Arul Chinnaiyan

Professor of Pathology, Medical Institute, UM

David Ginsburg

David Ginsburg

Prof., Human Genetics; Investigator, UM

Steve Nelson

Steve Nelson

Chief Executive Officer, UnitedHealthcare

Gil Omenn

Gil Omenn

Dir., Comput. Med. & Bioinformatics Center, UM

Eric Lefkofsky

Eric Lefkofsky

Founder and CEO, Tempus

Steven Leeder

Steven Leeder

Dir., Clin. Pharmacology Children’s Mercy Hospital,(CMH)

Ariella Shikanov

Ariella Shikanov

Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering, UM

Lawrence Corey

Lawrence Corey

Presi. & Dir. Emeritus, Fred Hutch Cancer Research Cent.

Amir Dan Rubin

Amir Dan Rubin

President and CEO, One Medical

Isaac (Zac) Kohane

Isaac (Zac) Kohane

Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard University

Sachin Kheterpal

Sachin Kheterpal

Associate Professor, Anesthesiology, UM

Event Highlights

When
June 6, 2018 8:00am to June 7, 2018 5:00pm
Where
Ross School of Business
701 Tappan Ave
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Cost
$774 by May 2nd, 2018

Registration: PMWC Conferences

Michigan June 6-7, 2018

First PMWC In Midwest
2 Track Speaker Lineup
Access to the exhibition
Breakfast & lunch refreshments
Award Reception

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