As pharmaceutical companies struggle to keep up with the rapidly mutating coronavirus, a startup in Cambridge, Mass., says it can help them by using artificial intelligence to predict future variants. Apriori Bio models the ways a virus might change and predicts how it will behave. The company says it’s harnessing that information to design “variant-proof” vaccines and treatments that can fight current and future strains—and provide an early warning to governments, sort of like a hurricane alert, to guide the public-health response.
After honing its technology, called Octavia, for more than two years, the fledgling company is formally launching with $50 million in funding from Flagship Pioneering Inc., the incubator behind Moderna Inc. We spoke with co-founder Lovisa Afzelius, a computational chemist—and Pfizer Inc. veteran—who serves as Apriori’s chief executive officer. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.