Press release
March 5, 2020
7 mins

Owkin and The University of Pittsburgh launch a collaboration to advance cancer research with AI and FL

Owkin, a startup that deploys AI and Federated Learning technologies to augment medical research and enable scientific discoveries, announces a collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh. This pilot leverages the high-quality datasets and world-class medical research within Pitt’s Departments of Biomedical Informatics and Pathology, as well as Owkin’s pioneering technologies and research platform. Collaborations such as these have the potential to advance clinical research and drug development.

Pitt researchers led by Michael Becich, MD, PhD, Associate Vice Chancellor for Informatics in the Health Sciences and Chairman and Distinguished University Professor of the Department of Biomedical Informatics (DBMI), will team up with Owkin to develop and validate prognostic machine learning models. The pilot project will then have the potential to expand into several key therapeutic areas for the University.

Michael Becich, MD, PhD, said:

The Pitt Department of Biomedical Informatics in partnership with the Department of Pathology is committed to improving biomedical research and clinical care through the innovative application of informatics and best practices in next-generation data sharing. This collaboration with Owkin will expand our innovations in the computational pathology space. Our currently funded projects explore areas such as the intersection of genomics and machine learning applied to histopathologic imaging (computational pathology) to broaden our understanding of the role of the tumour microenvironment for precision immune-oncology.

This partnership makes it possible for Pitt to join the our federated network of US and European academic medical centres that collaborate with Owkin to generate new insights from high-quality, curated, research-grade, multi-modal patient data captured in clinical trials or research cohorts. Network-generated insights can inform pharmaceutical drug development strategy, from biomarker discovery to clinical trial design, and product differentiation. Owkin seeks to create a movement in medicine by establishing federated learning at the core of future research.

Federated learning technologies enable researchers in different institutions and different geographies to collaborate and train multicentric AI models on heterogeneous datasets, resulting in better predictive performance and higher generalizability. Data does not move, only the algorithms travel, thus protecting an institution’s data governance and privacy. Furthermore, Owkin’s data use is compliant with local ethical body consent processes and data compliance regulations such as HIPAA and GDPR.

Meriem Sefta, Owkin Chief Diagnostics Officer, said:

We’re thrilled to launch this project with Dr. Becich and his team at Pitt. The quality and size of the University’s research cohorts in combination with the DBMI’s mandate to bring together healthcare physicians and innovative academics to work on some of the most cutting-edge science makes this collaboration a great opportunity to develop predictive AI models and to scale other research in the future. Owkin is proud to bring their expertise in machine learning technologies and data scientists to the table to foment new clinical insights

HIMSS 2020

Owkin is presenting their recent discoveries at HIMSS 2020 in Orlando, Florida on March 10th at 2:45 pm EDT. From the Innovation Live Stage, Meriem Sefta and Charles Maussion will explore opportunities to transform medical research with a Federated AI Learning platform. Rooted in institutional relationships that optimize high-quality research cohorts fit for AI, they will illustrate these breakthrough methods with a Nature Medicine published case study developed in close collaboration with one of our partners. Several other Owkin members will also be on hand to discuss the organization’s innovative research platform. Get in touch with Owkin to learn more or meet them at their booth during the conference.

About the University of Pittsburgh

Pitt has ranked among the top 10 recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health since 1998 and is ranked among the top 10 American research universities nationally in terms of total federal science and engineering research and development obligations. For more information, visit For more information about Pitt’s Department of Biomedical Informatics, visit

A nonsectarian, coeducational, state-related, public research university founded in 1787, the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) is a member of the prestigious by-invitation-only Association of American Universities and internationally renowned as a leading centre of learning and research in the arts, sciences, humanities, professions, and health sciences. Comprising a Pittsburgh campus, which is home to 16 undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools, and four Western Pennsylvania regional campuses, Pitt offers nearly 500 distinct degree programs and confers more than 8,500 degrees annually.

About Owkin

Owkin is the first full-stack TechBio company on a mission to understand complex biology and derive new multimodal biomarkers through AI.

We identify precision therapeutics, de-risk and accelerate clinical trials and develop diagnostics using AI trained on world-class patient data through privacy-enhancing technologies. We merge wet lab experiments with advanced AI techniques to create a powerful feedback loop for accelerated discovery and innovation in oncology, cardiovascular, immunity and inflammation.

Owkin also founded MOSAIC, the world’s largest spatial multi-omics atlas for cancer research across seven cancer indications.

Owkin has raised over $300 million through investments from leading biopharma companies, including Sanofi and BMS, and venture funds like Fidelity, GV and Bpifrance, among others.