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Dallas-based Colossal Biosciences, the self-described de-extinction company behind the woolly mammoth and thylacine, today announced that it is spinning off Form Bio, as an independent software company offering a computational life sciences platform that bridges the gap between data and discovery.
Driven by deep learning artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, Form Bio empowers life scientists with a software platform for managing large datasets, executing verified workflows, visualizing results and collaborating with their peers. The platform brings these capabilities together in one cohesive unit with a user experience designed to simplify computational work and bolster life science breakthroughs across companies, labs and universities.
It is designed to be applied across an array of use cases including drug discovery, gene and cell therapy, manufacturing efficiency, academic research and more. Form Bio enters the market with a $30 million series A funding round led by JAZZ Venture Partners with participation from Thomas Tull, Colossal lead investor.
“When you have a big scientific endeavor like de-extincting a species, you not only need the smartest scientists in the world, you need powerful software, much of which simply hasn’t existed until now,” said Ben Lamm, Colossal cofounder and CEO. “After reviewing everything available on the market, we chose to create our own software solution. Now, we want to share this platform with the broader community to impact other areas of scientific innovation, including human health.”
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Form Bio: The in-house tool turned software company
Form Bio was created almost in parallel with Colossal, the company that rose to fame for applying CRISPR technology for the purposes of species restoration, critically endangered species protection and the repopulation of critical ecosystems that support the continuation of life on Earth. At the time, the Colossal team recognized the lack of necessary software capabilities in the market and inadequacies of traditional bioinformatics processes to rapidly analyze enormous volumes of data. More importantly, they noticed that the market lacked the tools required by the team at Colossal themselves for comparative genomics and computational biology.
Developed initially to advance de-extinction, Form Bio was a solution that had the potential to address the data deluge while responding to the industry’s acute need for a simple, user-friendly platform to replace mountains of code, cumbersome data wrangling processes and underdeveloped tools.
Colossal’s team of computation biologists, along with the team of scientists at the Church Lab, and more than 35 geneticists at Colossal’s labs in Boston and Dallas, worked to develop and refine Form Bio’s core platform capabilities for the broader market.
The future of bioengineering: AI and machine learning
“Computer-aided design, fabrication, testing analyses and machine learning are key to the future of bioengineering in general and specifically restoration of endangered and extinct genetic diversity for keystone species in vital ecosystems,” said Colossal cofounder George Church, Professor at Harvard Medical School and MIT, and director of Synthetic Biology at the Wyss Institute in Boston. “Form Bio is the software critical to pave the way. As scientist-engineers, we need these pipelines and look forward to faster breakthroughs in scientific discoveries and applications, now that software has caught up with science.”
The Form platform sits at the intersection of biology and discovery. It brings together core components of data management, workflows, results visualization and collaboration in one cohesive solution. Included as part of Form is an extensive catalog of verified workflows, covering a wide range of scientific use cases from ancient DNA analysis and transcriptomics to AAV gene therapy.
The platform also serves as a foundation for advanced, AI-based applications tailored to the needs of specific industries and academic fields. “Scientists do like to tinker and do things very bespoke. The platform allows them to upload their own workflows or use the workflows that we’ve already developed and validated. So it gives them the confidence that it is something that they can trust the output of and that if they bring a different set of data in six months to get comparable results,” said Claire Aldridge, Ph.D., chief strategy officer, Form Bio.
With the launch of Form Bio, Kent Wakeford will transition from his day-to-day role as Colossal’s COO to Form Bio’s co-CEO, where he will work alongside co-CEO Andrew Busey and support Colossal’s CEO and Board of Directors in an executive special advisor role. Former Biolabs COO, Adam Milne, has also joined Colossal as its new Chief Operating Officer.
“We’ve created one integrated platform that’s been in development for the last 18 months. It allows users to take an idea and move it all the way into production in a way that is more efficient and cost effective. By taking a more open and transparent approach, the platform can use different toolsets, export data in any way they choose, perform computational analysis with our machine learning and AI models, and share the information with peers or other journals. In a nutshell, we aspire to be like the GitHub for science,” Wakeford told VentureBeat.
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