Parisian AI biotech startup Owkin has received a $180 million investment from multi-national pharmaceutical giant Sanofi. As part of the investment, Owkin has also been awarded four exclusive collaborative cancer research projects, worth $90 million over the course of three years, but the numbers rise should research milestones be achieved. To date, Owkin has raised a total of $324.1 million and now joins the unicorn club with a valuation of over $1 billion.
Founded in 2016 by Gilles Wainrib and Thomas Clozel, Owkin has pieced together a global research network that leverages the technique of federated learning, "a machine learning technique that trains an algorithm across multiple decentralised edge devices or servers holding local data samples, without exchanging them", promoting unprecedented, privacy-preserving research techniques.
Given the amount invested and the collaboration projects, it’s pretty clear that Sanofi and Owkin have just entered a long-term relationship. Sanofi’s investment will power Owkin’s continued development and goal to assemble the world’s most comprehensive histology and genomic cancer database, while the pharmaceutical giant will use Owkin’s technology to find new biomarkers and therapeutic targets, build prognostic models, and predict response to treatment from multimodal patient data.
“We believe that the future of precision medicine lies in technologies that can unlock insights from the vast amount of patient data in hospitals and research centers in a privacy-preserving and secure way,” commented Owkin co-founder and CEO Thomas Clozel, M.D. “This landmark partnership with Sanofi will see federated learning used to create research collaborations at a truly unprecedented scale.”