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Irish Startup to Discover Five New Healthcare Ingredients with AI by 2021

by Andrea Stojanović

An Irish healthcare startup Nutrias has discovered the first healthcare ingredient using artificial intelligence (AI). It plans to discover another four within the next 18 months.

Nuritas has raised $65m (£51m) from a series of high-profile investors such as U2’s Bono, Salesforce founder Marc Benioff, and the Edge. It has also raised money from serial entrepreneur Ali Partovi, an early advisor to Dropbox, and the European Investment Bank.

The startup’s machine learning method for drug discovery now prides itself on a 60% success rate — surpassing the results in the rest of the pharmaceutical industry by a long shot.

The first ingredient with medicinal effects was discovered in collaboration with the German chemical giant BASF (BAS.DE), and it helps treat inflammation. By the end of 2019, the healthcare product should hit the market in a number of sports nutrition products, said CEO Emmet Browne, in his interview for Yahoo Finance UK.

“We believe not only that we have launched the only healthcare ingredient found through AI, but we will, in fact, launch the second, third, fourth, and fifth within a 12–18 month period as well,” Browne commented in the interview.

Such ingredients usually take five to seven years to discover, at an approximate cost of $35m. Nutrias has achieved the same goal in two years. 

“To have something in market that quickly is just exceedingly disruptive by comparison to what’s normally the case with that particular arena,” said Browne.

A three-stage process is all this startup needs to discover new healthcare products, starting with a manual identification of a range of possibilities. Once this stage is finalized, machine learning steps in to narrow down the options. Somewhere around 60% of identified ingredients will show the bioactive activity the scientists are searching for, according to Browne. 

“In effect, what we do is use artificial intelligence to unlock nature’s secrets. That’s the depth of it.”

“Nature carries an exhaustible reserve of bioactive opportunities,” Browne said, noting that the “vastness has until now made it relatively impenetrable to the 20th-century process of discovery.”

Founded in 2014 by Dr. Nora Khaldi, an Irish-Algerian scientist, Nuritas combines AI and genomics to discover and unlock natural Bioactive Peptides with a wide array of health benefits. In a world of mounting health issues, a growing number of chronic diseases, and a rapidly aging population, Nutrias is trying to offer preventative options at an affordable price.

Nutrias is also a founding member of a coalition of tech and health experts, pharmaceutical companies, and research organizations called the Alliance for Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare. They aim to use AI and machine learning to build a healthier world for everyone. 

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