France’s Bioptimus Releases AI Model for Disease Diagnosis

A scientist works in the Acuitas Therapeutics lab at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Acuitas Therapeutics provided their lipid nanoparticle delivery system in the development of the Pfizer BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine. Photographer: James MacDonald/Bloomberg (James MacDonald/Bloomberg)

(Bloomberg) -- The French startup Bioptimus is releasing an artificial intelligence model trained on hundreds of millions of images that, it said, will aid in the research and diagnoses of diseases.

The model, called H-optimus-0, is capable of performing complex tasks including identifying cancerous cells and detecting genetic abnormalities in tumors, the Paris-based company said in a statement. Bioptimus described the system as the largest model for pathology that is open source and widely accessible. 

The startup is among the many firms trying to apply AI for medical breakthroughs. Google’s DeepMind recently released a new version of AlphaFold, a landmark AI system developed for predicting protein structures. K Health, an American startup behind a chatbot that speaks to patients before they see physicians, raised $50 million in a transaction that values the company at about $900 million. 

Bioptimus Chief Technology Officer Rodolphe Jenatton said the company opted for an open-source model to bring about transparency in the space and accelerate advances. The company said it hopes further developments will allow the model to work at different levels of human biology. The current model focuses on tissues only.

Widespread concerns about the use of AI in diagnosing medical conditions remain. A 2023 Pew Research Center survey found that 60% of patients would feel uncomfortable with their doctors relying on AI for their health care. Earlier this week, experts called on the National Health Service in the UK to focus on basic cancer care rather than AI “magic bullets.” 

A 2021 study in Nature Medicine found that AI algorithms applied to chest X-rays under-diagnosed women, Black and Hispanic patients and those on Medicaid.

Jenatton described the first release of H-optimus-0 as being “part of the longer journey.” 

Bioptimus was founded in February with the support and investment of French biotech company Owkin Inc. The startup received $35 million in seed funding from investors including Sofinnova Partners, state-owned investment bank Bpifrance and telecom billionaire Xavier Niel.

--With assistance from Mark Bergen.

(Updates with additional investor in final paragraph)

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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