French and US-based Owkin, a startup that provides machine learning to allow medical researchers to test AI models on distributed data, has raised $180M (approx €159M) in a fresh round of funding. With a valuation of more than $1B, Owkin has now earned the status of a ‘unicorn’.
The investment was a strategic collaboration by Paris-based Sanofi, a therapeutic solutions provider. The funding will support Owkin to develop the world’s leading histology and genomic cancer database from top oncology centres.
Combining data to accelerate drug discovery
Owkin, an artificial intelligence (AI) and precision medicine company, was co-founded in 2016 by Thomas Clozel, MD, a clinical research doctor and former assistant professor in clinical hematology, and Gilles Wainrib, PhD, an academic pioneer in the field of Artificial Intelligence in biology.
Thomas Clozel explains, “Owkin’s mission is to improve patients’ lives by using our platform to discover the right treatment for every patient. 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 centres in a privacy-preserving way. The future of AI to transform how we develop treatments is incredibly bright.”
The company was built on the belief that medical research should be collaborative, inclusive, and privacy-preserving. Owkin is building a global research network using federated learning, connecting data scientists, clinicians, researchers, and pharma on a research platform that keeps the data secure and preserves privacy.
As of now, Owkin has raised over $70M in funding and is now working with the largest cancer centres and pharmaceutical companies in Europe and in the US.
Aim of the collaboration
Owkin and Sanofi’s three year strategic collaboration will work towards discovering and developing programmes in four exclusive types of cancer. With an aim to optimise clinical trial design and detect predictive biomarkers, this collaboration will support Sanofi’s oncology portfolio in core areas such as lung cancer, breast cancer, and multiple myeloma.
The deal includes a $90M discovery and development partnership, plus the chance for additional milestone-based payments based on the pair’s success.
Owkin claims to have a global research network powered by federated learning to accelerate medical research in a privacy-preserving way. This research network allows data scientists to securely connect to decentralised multi-party data sets and train AI models without pooling data.
Sanofi says it will leverage the comprehensive Owkin platform to find new biomarkers, build predictive models, and predict response to treatment from multimodal patient data. As a result, this approach will complement Sanofi’s emerging strength in oncology.
Arnaud Robert, executive VP and Chief Digital Officer at Sanofi, says, “Owkin’s unique methodology, which applies AI on patient data from partnerships with multiple academic medical centres, supports our ambition to leverage data in innovative ways in R&D. We are striving to advance precision medicine and to discover innovative treatment methods with the greatest benefits for patients.”
Responsive innovation in metastatic breast cancer research
Founded in 2004 by Jean-François Dehecq and Jean-René Sautier, Sanofi is a life sciences company committed to improving access to healthcare and supporting people throughout the continuum of care.
From prevention to treatment, Sanofi wants to transform scientific innovation into healthcare solutions in human vaccines, rare diseases, multiple sclerosis, oncology, immunology, infectious diseases, diabetes and cardiovascular solutions, and consumer healthcare.
Sanofi employs more than 110,000 people across multiple countries.