Terramera leading project to predict future strains of COVID-19 with AI


Vancouver-based agricultural technology company Terramera is leading a new research project that hopes to use machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to get ahead of COVID-19.

The collaborative project hopes to avoid future pandemics via better forecasting and pre-design of effective vaccines, antibodies, and tests. Terramera plans to deliver computational models to identify and combat future mutants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

“Instead of playing catch-up again … we’ll predict likely new strains with our machine learning models.”

British Columbia’s Digital Technology Supercluster, backed by the Government of Canada, will support Terramera’s effort with $1.8 million CAD in initial funding through its COVID-19 program, which seeks to protect the health and safety of Canadians and the country’s economy “through the development, deployment, and scaling of digital technologies.”

“This is an enormous opportunity to harness complementary areas of cutting-edge science across industry and academia,” said Karn Manhas, Terramera’s founder and CEO. “Working together, we can help solve some of the world’s biggest problems, from sustainable food production to treatments for COVID, with novel predictive technologies.”

The project’s partners—Microsoft, the University of British Columbia, Menten AI, ProMIS Neurosciences, and D-Wave—have also committed to co-invest $3 million, bringing total investment in the initiative to $4.8 million CAD.

RELATED: Digital Technology Supercluster investing in eight new projects through COVID-19 program

Terramera said its AI technology will play a central role in the project. The company’s regular AgTech operations and research will be unaffected.

“Viruses are always changing, and SARS-CoV-2 is no exception,” said Steven Slater, Terramera’s VP of strategic initiatives and the lead scientist on the new project. “Instead of playing catch-up again as another wave wraps around the world, we’ll predict likely new strains with our machine learning models, and then we’ll pre-design medicines and therapies to stop future pandemics.”

Terramera specializes in technology for clean food. Founded in 2010, the company uses AI to “transform how food is grown,” and hopes to reduce global synthetic chemical loads in agriculture by 80 percent and increase global farm productivity by 20 percent by 2030. The startup recently raised $64.1 million CAD in Series B funding to help scale its crop protection technology, Actigate.

Terramera intends to apply the same technology that supports Acitgate to this new project.

Image source Terramera

Josh Scott

Josh Scott

Josh Scott is a BetaKit reporter focused on telling in-depth Canadian tech stories and breaking news. His coverage is more complete than his moustache.

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