Apriori receives funding boost from CEPI to advance AI platform to protect against viral threats

Virus, Credit: Shutterstock

OSLO/CAMBRIDGE, MA, 08 July 2024 – Biotechnology company Apriori Bio has been awarded US $1.1 million from CEPI to advance its biology-informed artificial intelligence platform Octavia™, aimed at protecting humanity against rapidly evolving viruses by designing variant-resilient vaccines.

The Octavia platform works by characterising large libraries of viral variants on their ability to bind to cells in the human body and evade the immune response. Then using machine learning, Octavia generates maps to identify the mutations that have the greatest ‘escape potential’ and could therefore pose the greatest threat. These insights can guide how new vaccines are designed and how existing vaccines are updated so that they can protect against worrisome variants for years to come.

Experts can also use Octavia’s real-time variant insights to inform public health decisions and policies against some of the world’s most deadly diseases. Having this information ‘a  priori’ – before things appear – can significantly enhance the world’s pandemic readiness and ability to respond to an outbreak in as little as 100 days

Dr In-Kyu Yoon, Executive Director of Vaccine R&D (Acting), CEPI, said: “The world was brought to its knees by the devastating COVID-19 pandemic where fast-emerging variants like Omicron outsmarted our medical defences, so we had to constantly play catch-up. To avoid being in this vulnerable position again, we need to shift our global mindset to one of preparedness. By focussing on the range of potential deadly viral variants that could emerge from deadly pathogens ahead of time, we could seriously speed up our response to a future outbreak.”

Lovisa Afzelius, Ph.D., MBA, Co-founder and CEO of Apriori, said: “We are honoured to be recognized by a global leader in pandemic preparedness who shares our commitment to better protecting humanity from rapidly-evolving viruses. With CEPI’s support we will continue advancing our Octavia platform, focusing on viruses beyond coronavirus, to ensure the global community is better prepared to effectively address future outbreaks with precision and speed.”  

Octavia uses both computational insights and experimental biological data to build and train its algorithms. This includes looking at evolutionary trees of viruses to identify the point at which viral variability is most likely to occur and exploring how mutations could affect each other.

Apriori has already explored how Octavia works on COVID-19 variants. The new seed funding from CEPI will focus on pandemic influenza strain H3N2, which has previously affected pigs, birds and humans.

This work is supported by CEPI’s new dedicated biosecurity department, which was established to reduce biosafety and biosecurity risks associated with CEPI research investments, and accelerate responsible AI for vaccine development.

CEPI and Apriori Bio are committed to enabling equitable access to the outputs of their partnership, in line with CEPI’s Equitable Access Policy. Project results, including related data, will be published open access for the benefit of the global scientific community. This includes the potential to share learnings with CEPI partners so that they can quickly get to work using their data to advance their vaccine designs. 

This is the second project to be announced as part of CEPI’s call for vaccine innovations that could be critical to helping the world better prepare for future epidemics and pandemics.


About CEPI 

CEPI is an innovative partnership between public, private, philanthropic and civil organisations. Its mission is to accelerate the development of vaccines and other biologic countermeasures against epidemic and pandemic threats so they can be accessible to all people in need. CEPI has supported the development of more than 50 vaccine candidates or platform technologies against multiple known high-risk pathogens or a future Disease X. Central to CEPI’s pandemic-beating five-year plan for 2022-2026 is the ‘100 Days Mission’ to compress the time taken to develop safe, effective, globally accessible vaccines against new threats to just 100 days.

About Apriori Bio

Apriori is working to create a world where humanity is protected against viral threats. Our pioneering approach centers on a unique technology platform, Octavia™, which allows us to survey the entire fitness landscape of existing and potential viral variants to design new vaccines against the most threatening variants. Octavia can also inform public health policy in real time by predicting the impact of emerging variants. Apriori was founded in 2020 by Flagship Pioneering. For more information visit www.aprioribio.com or follow us on LinkedIn and X at @AprioriBio.

Apriori Bio