Cortical Labs raises $10 million for its Pong-playing stem cells that could eventually power AI

Cortical Labs raises $10 million for its Pong-playing stem cells that could eventually power AI

Cortical Labs raises $10 million for its Pong-playing stem cells that could eventually power AI

While generative AI is all the rage right now, what OpenAI, Microsoft, and Google are doing may only be part of the story. There’s also the process of using biology: the idea of ​​using stem cells to create biocomputers that could potentially be smarter and more energy efficient than what we’re used to today.

Australian startup Cortical Labs came onto the radar after Amazon CTO Werner Vogels traveled to Australia to visit their lab recently, and he even wrote about it, calling it “intriguing.”

Cortical combines synthetic biology and human neurons to develop what it claims is a class of AI, known as “organoid intelligence (OI)”.

It has now raised a $10 million funding round led by Horizons Ventures, with participation from LifeX (Life Extension) Ventures (whose launch we covered last year) Blackbird Ventures, Radar Ventures and In-Q- Tel (the venture capital arm of the CIA).

The company says it is already filling orders for its technology.

It works by using clusters of neurons grown in the lab from human stem cells to form what it calls a “DishBrain” which is then connected to hard silicon to create what it describes as an operating system. biological intelligence (biOS).

Some observers say this is the future of AI because human neurons could be better than any digital AI model for generalized intelligence, given that they are self-programming and require much less power consumption.

Hon Weng Chong, CEO and Founder of Cortical Labs, said in a statement, “The possibilities that hybrid AI meets synthetic biology model can unlock are limitless, accelerating the possibilities of digital AI in a more powerful way. and more durable.

Jonathan Tam of Horizons Ventures said: “Ultimately being able to use these systems to better understand, and possibly exploit, how neurons display intelligence will open up a plethora of applications, including revolutionizing in personalized medicine and disease detection.

Cortical Labs’ technology first appeared in the scientific journal Neuron in October 2022, demonstrating that neurons in a Petri dish can be encouraged to play the computer game Pong.

It sounds trivial, but as Weng Chong told me over email, it could enable the development and testing of new drugs and therapies, plus “if you took your blood and turned it into neurons, that drug discovery would become even more customizable – the results would be specially designed for you only.

He also says that the competition in the space is weak: “It does not directly compete with anything because it is the first of its kind to be a pioneer in the field of organoid intelligence. Organoid intelligence has the potential to learn faster and use far less energy than any other AI system in existence. GPT is so smart because it’s ingested all of the internet, but you or I don’t have to for us to have really good conversational skills.

“It has taken at least 10 years since Geoff Hinton and Alex Krizhevsky put a GPU to do Deep Learning for us to be where we are today. We are still in the early days of this technology,” he added.

In the immediate term, he says, an immediate application is to effectively drip a new drug on the cells to test it – if the cells can’t play Pong anymore, you know the drug isn’t working: “Not only does the Efficacy is able to be better determined, but also cognitive side effects (brain fog) can be elucidated as we now have a potential test for cognition in the form of neurons playing the game Pong.

He says the technology could also be used to study dementia and even test the compounds we discovered using quantum computing and generative AI.

And potentially further into the future “if the number and complexity of these neurons are scaled up, the end result would be familiar to us as fully embodied organisms such as a cat, dog, or human.”

Hold your hats, people.


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.