Mars partners with AI firm on ingredient discovery project

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Photo courtesy of Mars Inc.
Photo courtesy of Mars Inc.

Related tags Cocoa Cocoa flavanols Artificial intelligence

Food giant Mars Inc. has teamed with an artificial intelligence firm PIPA to speed the discovery of new plant-based ingredients for the human and animal food and dietary supplement markets.

The recently announced partnership will leverage PIPA’s platform to speed the development process, the companies said in a statement.  PIPA, which stands for Process Integration & Predictive Analytics, is a spinoff from the University of California Davis where company’s founder, Ilias Tagkopoulos, PhD, is a professor in the university’s computer science and genomics center.

PIPA’s stated goal is to “empower R&D teams across Life Sciences and Nutrition to develop therapeutic and preventative assets that improve health, halt disease and increase the lifespan and wellbeing for both humans and animals.”

Mars said the multiyear agreement with PIPA will use PIPA’s proprietary LEAP artificial intelligence platform.  It will bring greater speed to market for new ingredients in human and pt foods.  PIPA claims the LEAP bioinformatics approach brings together data from more than 22 million published papers, more than 60 knowledge bases and semantic networks and cross references that against 16,000 diseases and/or conditions to quickly arrive at novel solutions.

Multipurpose platform

PIPA says the platform has more uses beyond botanical ingredient discovery.  The company claims it can be used to enhance flavor prediction, customize fermentation production processes and improve personalized nutrition recommendations among other targets.

Mars said the agreement follows on several projects that have already been completed with PIPA’s help.  One of those was to analyze data from veterinarians to predict disease risk in animals.  The project ended with the development of a diagnostic tool that vets can use to predict kidney disease in cats.

PIPA is an important and valuable research collaborator for Mars. Their science and technology strengths will translate into business impact, opening doors for Mars and the wider food industry,”​ said Nici Bush, vice president of innovation, science and technology at Mars. 

Mars has a long history of ingredients research.  One ingredient research effort relevant to the supplement industry arose out of the company’s foundational confectionary business.  Mars has invested years of research into the health properties of cocoa flavanols that are sold as supplements under the CocoaVia brand name.

“The next decade we will witness a paradigm shift in the way we understand food, its effect to our health and well-being. The trifecta of mapping the molecular atlas of food, leveraging state-of-the-art computational methods that learn from data and nurturing a vibrant ecosystem that translates discoveries to practice,” ​Tagkopoulos said.

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