Skip to content
Businessweek
Prognosis

Using Artificial Intelligence to Predict the Next Covid Variants

Apriori Bio says it can model mutations to help drugmakers develop better vaccines and treatments.

Apriori CEO Lovisa Afzelius.

Apriori CEO Lovisa Afzelius.

Source: Flagship Pioneering

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.