AI start-up teams up with international biotech scientists to win Pan-European hackathon


Exponential Technologies (xT) together with a team of international scientists recently won the Health+Life – research category of the EUvsVirus hackathon organized by the European Commission. In total, the competition attracted over 20 000 participants and over 2100 projects were submitted. The team will participate in Demo day on the 21st of May as well as in the Matchathon from 22nd to 25th of May with a purpose to find partners for pilot projects and co-development and to attract seed funding.

“We are very thankful and proud to be selected among the 43 winners out of over 2000 projects and hope that the support of the European Commission and the network of partners and mentors will help us to deliver the technology that will assist in the global race for COVID-19 vaccine.”

Matthias Kaiser, CEO of xT

The solution, developed under the name xT smart_DoE enables the faster and easier scaling of vaccine and antibody test kit production. This would shorten the go-to-market time for COVID-19 vaccines by several months, which would save tens of thousands of lives.

Although several pharmaceutical companies are already developing vaccines for the immunization against the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 induced disease COVID-19, ramping up the production of these vaccines might take up to 12 months. The situation with antibody test kits is similar. Even though the test kits are already produced, maximum production levels are still not reached.

Most modern vaccines are produced in bioreactors. The scaling up of these processes from smaller laboratory-sized bioreactors to industrial-sized equipment is a time- and resource-intensive process. xT team solves this problem by using Design of Experiments methodology in combination with unique small-data artificial intelligence algorithms. This allows to find bioreactor processes and feed parameters in a shorter time, as well as significantly reduce the required costs.

The work on the project idea started in early March following the lock-down. The technology is already validated in other industrial domains, such as specialty chemicals and additive manufacturing. The hackathon team “xT BioE” is currently starting cooperation with the Institute of Microbiology and Biotechnology of the University of Latvia to perform technology validation tests in laboratory conditions. Additionally, a pilot project with the German industrial chemistry and biotechnology giant Evonik Industries AG has recently been launched to test the technology’s ability to work with bio-processes.

The performance of the Latvian team in the hackathon has been awarded with a cash prize of 3,000 euros from the Malta Council for Science and Technology.

The winning team consisted of the founders of a start-up “Exponential Technologies” Matthias Kaiser, Pavels Cacivkins, Mārīte Elksne, Artūrs Solovjovs and Ģirts Smelters, as well as marketing consultant Kristina Oļševska. The team was complemented by highly skilled experts – data scientist Eyal Kazin and biologist Tapasree Goswami from Great Britain, and biochemist Reshmi Mukherjee from the Netherlands.

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