Using AI to unlock the genetic secrets of food

Using AI to unlock the genetic secrets of food

Monitoring Desk

WASHINGTON: A startup is employing machine learning to identify what it calls the “dark matter of nutrition.”

Why it matters: More than 99% of phytonutrients — the natural chemicals produced by plants — are unknown to science. If we can illuminate that dark matter, we can identify and cultivate compounds in foods for specific health value.

How it works: The startup Brightseed uses a proprietary AI platform called Forager to predict the likelihood that plants will have useful natural compounds and the likelihood that those phytonutrients will have specific health benefits.

The platform is trained on a vast library of biomedical and plant research. That allows the AI to make connections between plant ingredients and health effects far faster than any human scientist could alone.

“It effectively works as a Google search engine for these compounds and what they can do,” says Jim Flatt, Brightseed’s CEO. “Once we’ve found those compounds, we can develop products and services around them.”

Details: The Forager system can screen by specific chemical compound, or by health benefit, searching for ingredients that might affect cholesterol or cognitive function.

Earlier this year Brightseed announced a partnership with Danone North America to use the Forager system on soy.

It’s a sign that even one of the most heavily used plants on Earth may have additional nutritional secrets that AI can help tease out.

What they’re saying: “AI allows us to tackle things that would have taken far too long in the past computationally,” says Flatt.

The bottom line: As exciting as the possibility of using biotechnology to synthesize entirely new compounds is, we’ve only begun to understand what already exists in the world — and AI can accelerate those discoveries. Courtesy: (Axios)

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