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Startup Advances Precision Medicine for COVID-19, Chronic Diseases


At a time when much about COVID-19 remained a mystery, U.K.-based PrecisionLife used AI and combinatorial analytics to discover new genes associated with severe symptoms and hospitalizations for patients.

The techbio company’s study, published in June 2020, pinpoints 68 novel genes associated with individuals who experienced severe disease from the virus. Over 70 percent of these targets have since been independently validated in global scientific literature as genetic risk factors for severe COVID-19 symptoms.

The startup was able to perform this early and accurate analysis using the first small COVID-19 patient dataset reported in the UK Biobank, with the help of AI, trained on NVIDIA A40 GPUs and backed by CUDA software libraries. PrecisionLife’s combinatorial analytics approach identifies interactions between genetic variants and other clinical or epidemiological factors in patients.

Results are shown in the featured image above, which depicts the disease architecture stratification of a severe COVID-19 patient population at the pandemic’s outset. Colors represent patient subgroups. Circles represent disease-associated genetic variants. And lines represent co-associated variants.

PrecisionLife technology helps researchers better understand complex disease biology at a population and personal level. Beyond COVID-19, the PrecisionLife analytics platform has been used to identify targets for precision medicine for more than 30 chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and ALS.

The company is a member of NVIDIA Inception, a free program that supports startups revolutionizing industries with cutting-edge technology.

Unique Disease Findings

Precision medicine considers an individual’s genetics, environment and lifestyle when selecting the treatment that could work best for them. PrecisionLife focuses on identifying how combinations of such factors impact chronic diseases.

The PrecisionLife platform enables a deeper understanding of the biology that leads to chronic disease across subgroups of patients. It uses combinatorial analytics to draw insights from the genomics and clinical history of patients — pulled from datasets provided by national biobanks, research consortia, patient charities and more.

Due to the inherent heterogeneity of chronic diseases, patients with the same diagnosis don’t necessarily experience the same causes, trajectories or treatments of disease.

The PrecisionLife platform identifies subgroups — within large patient populations — that have matching disease drivers, disease progression and treatment response. This can help researchers to select the right targets for drug development, treatments for individuals, as well as patients for clinical trials.

“Chronic disease is a complex space — a multi-genetic, multi-environmental problem with multiple patient subgroups,” said Mark Strivens, chief technology officer at PrecisionLife. “We work on technology to tackle problems that previous techniques couldn’t solve, and our unique disease findings will lead to a different set of therapeutic opportunities to best treat individuals.”

PrecisionLife technology is different from traditional analytical methods, like genome-wide association studies, which work best when single genetic variants are responsible for most of the disease risk. Instead, PrecisionLife offers combinatorial analytics, discovering significant combinations of multiple genetic and environmental factors.

The PrecisionLife platform can analyze data from 100,000 patients in just hours using NVIDIA A40 GPUs, a previously impossible feat, according to Strivens.

Plus, being a member of NVIDIA Inception gives the PrecisionLife team access to technical resources, hardware discounts and go-to-market support.

“Inception gives us access to technical expertise and connects us with other data-driven organizations that are a part of NVIDIA’s biotechnology AI ecosystem,” Strivens said. “Training from the NVIDIA Deep Learning Institute reduces the time it takes for our team members to ramp up learning a specific branch of programming.”

As a part of the groundbreaking U.K. life sciences community, PrecisionLife has access to a hub of healthcare innovation and specialist talent, Strivens said. Looking forward, the company plans to deliver new disease insights based on combinatorial analytics all across the globe.

Learn more about PrecisionLife and apply to join NVIDIA Inception.

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