Meet Deep Genomics, a start-up bringing the power of deep learning to genomics

Featured in the Washington Post, July 22, 2015

Back in 2003 Frey had been researching computer vision at the University of Toronto, a hotbed of deep learning research. Deep learning is a type of artificial intelligence in which computers learn to identify and categorize patterns in huge data sets. For examples, a self-driving car could use deep learning to identify pedestrians. Or a photo app might automatically group all of your photos of your grandmother or beach vacation together.

With frustration fresh on his mind, Frey knew he wanted to work on genomics. Out of hardship, Frey sought a way to make a positive impact, and his deep learning background would be his secret weapon.

“How can I make a difference to the next couple that shows up for genetic counseling and needs to figure out what’s going on genetically,” Frey said. “A billion dollars had been spent on the genome, it was obviously very important, but really people could not make sense of the genome.”

Frey began to develop a rare skill-set — combining genomics and deep learning. He published papers in leading academic journals and gave talks at conferences and universities. But years went by and medicine wasn’t transforming. Other researchers and companies weren’t running with the work, which surprised Frey.