Deep Life companies are combining life science and computer science to deliver scientific dramatic breakthroughs: Bolt Threads uses synthetic biology to test and develop new proteins that imitate spider silk; Freenome uses AI to analyze blood plasma to detect early signs of cancer; the Karius Test uses powerful computing to detect over 1,000 pathogens from a single blood draw within 24 hours.

Diving in to Deep Life

Dror Berman
Apr 10, 2019 · 4 min read

Two of the most consequential scientific fields in history — life science and computer science — are coming together to create an enormous opportunity

By: Dror Berman, Caleb Appleton, and Sara Ahmed Holman

At a lab in Redwood City, Calif., a Karius lab tech operates a high throughput liquid handling robot, which processes blood samples from ill patients across the country. When the delicate process ends, hundreds of millions of data points are available for an algorithm to sift through in search of rogue DNA — an infectious disease that doesn’t belong there. Known as “the Karius Test,” named for the company which designed the process, it can detect over 1,000 pathogens from a single blood draw and deliver results to doctors within 24 hours. In Emeryville, Calif., Bolt Threads is applying novel uses of synthetic biology to develop new proteins that imitate spider silk. In South San Francisco, Freenome is using breakthrough biology and artificial intelligence to analyze faint molecular signals of disease and identify early signs of cancer in blood plasma.

All three companies are backed by Innovation Endeavors, the venture firm Eric Schmidt and I co-founded, and all are signs of an emergent field at the center of two of the most consequential trends in human history: The ability to decode and code life, and the ability to solve complex problems with machine learning. At Innovation Endeavors, we are calling this new field “Deep Life.”

We believe a deeper partnership between people and organizations in computer science and life science will unlock new possibilities for longer life and better health for all of humanity, as well as the planet, itself.

Because of this, we are announcing today the creation of a new initiative: Deep Life — an ecosystem of organizations committed to solving the hardest problems at the intersection of life science and computer science. Our mission is to help life sciences organizations design and build solutions faster and with purpose so they can bring better products to market and reach global scale.

Innovation Endeavors is partnering with a number of organizations, including:

  • LEO Pharma, Danish pharmaceutical company focusing on pioneering dermatology
  • Mount Sinai, one of the largest and most innovative hospitals in the U.S.
  • Novozymes, a $2B global market leader in biological solutions, producing industrial enzymes and microorganisms for a broad range of industries
  • Schmidt Futures a philanthropic initiative founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt, that seeks to improve societal outcomes through the thoughtful development of emerging science and technologies that can benefit humanity
  • Clalit Health Services & Research Institute, an innovative and integrated healthcare system in Israel that cares for over 50% of its population
  • Academics, entrepreneurs and others, including Aviv Regev, a computational biologist and Faculty Chair of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

Innovation Endeavors is shaping the Deep Life ecosystem based on needs and opportunities we uncovered while working with companies such as Bolt Threads, Color, Freenome, GRO Biosciences, Karius, Vicarious Surgical, and Zymergen.

Deep Life partners will provide startups with: investment capital across all stages of growth; access to experts, including scientists and decision-makers; proprietary data sets; early feedback on product; identification of market needs; initial customers and potential partners. In exchange for their startup support, Deep Life member organizations gain access to emerging technologies and hard-to-find talent.

We’re taking inspiration for Deep Life from two other ecosystems Innovation Endeavors helped create: Farm2050 and Team8.

At Team8, we helped bring together former Israeli Defense Force leaders with companies such as Cisco, Microsoft and Qualcomm to solve the biggest challenges around securing an increasingly cyber-centered world. Team8 launched seven new companies, including Sygnia (acq. by Temasek), Illusive Networks, Claroty, and Hysolate.

With Farm2050, we went after a pressing issue: By 2050, the planet will be home to 10 billion people, requiring a 70% increase in global food production. Farm2050 is an ecosystem of researchers, growers, governments, and companies, including BASF, Bayer, DuPont, Finistere Ventures, Microsoft, Syngenta, The Wonderful Company, and others. We connected with more than 800 companies and provided dozens of strategic introductions. Innovation Endeavors invested in several startups, including: Blue River Technology (acq. by John Deere) and Plenty.

Advances in science and technology in the past decade are causing a massive shift in what is possible, in what timeframe, and at what cost. Biology is becoming digital, programmable and repeatable. And three technology trends are converging: A proliferation of new ways to capture data about the biological world, from the subcellular level to the population level; powerful computation makes it easier to draw insights from complex data sets; and advanced engineering capabilities, such as automation and genome engineering — enabling experiments at an unprecedented speed and scale.

As a group we will initially focus on startups using new ways to generate data that are more efficient and effective. We believe the next round of winning companies will recognize the value machine learning can bring to bear in this field. When an algorithm becomes the consumer of data, it changes the way you design experiments and acquire data — unlocking insights no human could have predicted.

We are open to new ideas, and see early opportunities in therapeutics, diagnostics and synthetic biology. We are excited by cross-functional teams combining biology, chemistry, computer science, math, medicine, physics and more. Deep Life founders dream big and build full-stack applications vs. selling services and software. They solve large technical problems and aim to define their categories.

We hope to hear from startups that want to be a part of something bigger, as well as large companies that want to learn from and guide young companies. If you’re interested in joining us on our mission, we hope you’ll visit us at or reach out to us at

Our first Deep Life “ideation day” is May 30 in Palo Alto, California. If your startup would like to apply, please complete this form. The deadline for submissions is May 1st.

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