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Masaryk University has new spin-off: AI|ffinity

Last week, Masaryk University’s 20th spin-off company was founded. AI|ffinity has gained a licence for software that uses artificial intelligence to determine the structure of biomolecules all the way down to the atomic level.

Signing of the contract between MU and its 20th spin-off company.

Academic spin-offs are companies that gain a licence to use a university’s intellectual property. Thanks to such agreements, research does not go unexploited at universities but finds real-life applications. AI|ffinity is one such case; it will use two pieces of software developed by Masaryk University: 4D-CHAINS and 4D-GRAPHS. Both can determine and model the structure of biomolecules such as proteins; they use a new measurement method and a computer algorithm. This method can determine the structure of biomolecules down to the atomic level, as well as of complexes of biomolecules and their dynamic behaviour. The company’s founder, Thomas Evangelidis, will, with support from his partner, continue to develop this software and apply in the fields of pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.

“The 4D-GRAPH software is one step contributing to the faster discovery of new medicaments. It is unique in that it enables cheaper and faster experiments that reach set goals,” says Thomas Evangelidis, the company’s founder and co-author of the computer algorithm.

These computer programs were created with support from the Masaryk University Grant Agency. Three MU institutes were involved in developing 4D-GRAPHS: the Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC MU), the Institute of Computer Science, and the Faculty of Informatics. The Technology Transfer Office played a central role in negotiating the terms of the licence.

“This promising business venture was born out of cooperation between the university, a newly founded company, and the JIC innovation agency. In the Czech Republic the transfer of research findings into practice is not a given. A successful project requires innovative technology and at the same time an enthusiastic scientist dedicated to doing business. That is why the creation of every spin-off company is so exceptional,” explains Jana Daňková, the business development manager for Masaryk University’s Technology Transfer Office.

Last year, this spin-off was awarded a grant from the JIC innovation agency’s Prototype and Verify programme. This programme is currently accepting another round of applications. “The story of AI|ffinity perfectly illustrates why South Moravia is one of the best regions in Central Europe at supporting innovation. On one hand is a very innovative project with great commercial potential and an excellent team; on the other hand is the JIC’s support programme and the city of Brno, which also offers grants and top-notch expertise. When these two things come together and a project is successful, it may grow into a global company,” says Petr Chládek, director of JIC.

AI|ffinity is partnered with UNICO, a company that has been behind more than 100 technological innovations that rely on top-notch science and research. “For the projects we work on, solid research results with global market potential are critical. From its very inception, AI|ffinity has had the idea that it wants to have the best product in the world. There are not many academic spin-offs in Czechia like this,” says Vojtěch Kadlec, CBO and co-founder of UNICO. He also adds that AI|ffinity is a company active in the dynamically growing market of artificial intelligence in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.