Apr 6

Yoshua Bengio Joins Valence Discovery as Scientific Advisor

3 min read

Prof. Yoshua Bengio, Turing Laureate, Founder & Scientific Director, Mila

A startup out of Mila is rethinking the way deep learning is done in data poor environments, aiming to unlock the full potential of these technologies in drug discovery.

Yoshua Bengio, professor at the University of Montreal and Founder of Mila, the Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute, will support Valence Discovery, formerly known as InVivo AI, in ongoing research in data-efficient deep learning and generative drug design.

“Breakthroughs in techniques for generative modeling and low data learning will play an important role in the future of AI-driven drug discovery," says Yoshua Bengio. "We’re thrilled to see a young team out of the Mila ecosystem at the forefront of this field, and I look forward to supporting their future research in my role as scientific advisor.”

Founded in 2018 by a team of graduate students out of Mila, University of Montreal, and McGill University, Valence is developing novel algorithms for data-efficient deep learning in an effort to overcome data constraints in drug discovery.

Deep learning has seen huge success against many big data problems. But in drug discovery, where data generation is slow and expensive, and much of emerging biology is poorly characterized, many prediction tasks fall into the low data domain. Traditional deep learning algorithms, which require large amounts of pre-existing training data, have limited utility in these low data settings.

“Our work with these methods started almost 5 years ago following a drug design project our founding team did with Pfizer and Merck," says Prudencio Tossou, co-founder and Head of Research at Valence. "Much of our current research is focused on meta learning, or the idea of learning how to learn. In a meta learning setting, we aim to learn generalizable chemical principles that we can exploit on new tasks, even if we don’t have access to large amounts of training data.”

“We’re making exciting progress with these methods and have validated early approaches in several live drug discovery programs. We’re also actively applying these methods in the hunt for new treatments for COVID-19, a virus we know little about and therefore have very little data for," says Daniel Cohen, Valence's CEO. "We’re thrilled to have Yoshua Bengio’s support as we continue our work in bringing these methods to drug discovery.”

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