The Danish and Spanish deep-tech startup is disrupting the pharmaceutical industry with its proprietary trustworthy artificial intelligence.
The dangers of “black box” AI (and why Abzu is introducing a new class of explainable AI)
Abzu was born in 2018 when seven brilliant, friendly, and quirky co-founders from Denmark, Italy, and Spain decided to challenge contemporary black-box AI. “It’s not common for startups to have this many founders, but we felt like we needed very strong intellectual resources to actually build a rather crazy idea,” says co-founder and CEO Casper Wilstrup.
Traditional artificial intelligence technologies are often called “black-box” because their operations aren’t visible, which means predictions are difficult or even impossible to understand. This lack of transparency contributes to very real problems, like undetected technical errors or unintentional bias.
In 2018, creating an AI that enables users to build and train explainable and transparent models seemed crazy. “We didn’t want to just pry open black-box AI,” says Casper. “We set out to develop something new: A truly trustworthy and accessible AI that would reveal clear justifications as to “the why” behind an outcome.”
Three years later in April 2021, the EU launched the AI Act proposal, draft legislation to promote “trustworthy AI” – the kind of AI that Abzu had launched a year prior in April 2020.
Abzu’s explainable AI is strategic for drug discovery – and Europe
Today, Abzu is revolutionizing drug development with its proprietary discovery engine that accelerates exploration, enabling scientists to bring drugs to market faster.
“We’re exposing – and explaining – previously hidden insights for drug development, whether that’s in the biological mechanisms that cause disease or the discovery and optimization of treatments. These are high-risk uses that require explainability to comply with current and developing regulations,” says Casper.
But the QLattic research engine was developed with even greater applications in mind.
What’s next for Abzu? Abzu Reason
Abzu will be applying the €2.5 million grant to the development of its discovery system Reason, a user-friendly and easy-to-operate platform built on the QLattice engine that makes interpretable and explainable predictions widely accessible. The Abzoids look forward to a beta release of Reason in the first half of 2023.
Abzu also intends to expand to other industries where AI application would be considered high-risk use by the EU, like fintech, energy, and critical infrastructure.
“We want to be a big part of establishing Europe as a global hub for trustworthy AI. Our QLattice is already human-centric and trustworthy, and next year Reason will make explainable discoveries widely accessible,” says Casper.
The funding is provided under the “grant first” modality which leaves the door open for further equity investment of up to €15 million from the EIC Fund in the future.
Abzu is in amazing company: See the 75 deep-tech startups in the June cutoff of the 2022 EIC Accelerator program.
The QLattice introduces a new standard of interpretability and explainability to life science data sets. Through simple models and straightforward mathematical expressions, Abzu’s QLattice achieves a level of transparency and performance in machine learning that is disrupting domains previously dominated by opaque and cumbersome models.
Founded in January 2018, Abzu is a deep tech startup with offices in Copenhagen, Denmark and Barcelona, Spain. Abzu derives its name from Ancient Sumerian, meaning “the source of the waters of wisdom”.
Abzu has raised a total of €8,1M, and last closed a seed round in April 2021 for €4.9M.
About the EIC Accelerator
The EIC Accelerator offers start-ups and SMEs grants of up to €2.5 million combined with equity investments through the EIC Fund ranging from €0.5 to €15 million or more. In addition to financial support, all projects benefit from a range of Business Acceleration Services that provide access to leading expertise, corporates, investors, and ecosystem actors.
The EIC Accelerator cut-off June 2022 received over 1.000 applications.
About the EIC Fund
The EIC Fund implements the equity part of the EIC Accelerator, with its unique offer of grants, blended finance, and equity investments, which has proven to be of high interest for start-ups and SMEs since its launch in March 2021.
The EIC Fund is the most active public European deep-tech investor in 2022 and aims to catalyze investments into high-risk, deep-tech companies trying to reach the market. It bridges the funding gap for start-ups with seed capital to series B financing, where market entry is at most in a pilot phase, to prepare the scaling up of breakthrough European innovations.