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Optimizing Innovation:
A Q&A with Mahyar Osanlouy, PhD

With experience in biology, computer science, and engineering Mahyar Osanlouy, PhD, brings a multidisciplinary perspective to his role as Senior Machine Learning Scientist at Provectus Algae. In this Q&A, we did some deep learning on his background, experience, and views on AI and its role in synthetic biology and biomanufacturing.

Q&A with Mahyar Osanlouy, Senior Machine Learning Scientist,

Tell us about your background, education, and previous work.

I like to say I have a multidisciplinary background and mind. I started with studying medical science in undergrad, then switched to engineering, earning my PhD in bioengineering in 2017. I also have a graduate degree in computer science, which helps me with the programming and machine learning aspects of my job. After graduating, I started to gain more interest in AI and machine learning. That led me to take a role at Soul Machines, a company that creates cutting-edge digital human avatars and also work as a research software engineer at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute. I made a spontaneous decision to move to Australia, and that’s when I joined Provectus Algae.

What convinced you to join Provectus Algae?

First, the company’s mission and value to science and society. Working with algae is novel, so I thought that would be a welcome challenge. Then, I met with the team and found out how smart everyone is and how great the company culture is. Finally, I thought the position itself was the perfect fit. I get to leverage my wide range of education and experience, from biology to bioengineering.

What are you currently working on at Provectus Algae? How does your work draw on your multidisciplinary background?

My primary focus is building and growing machine learning infrastructure. Before I joined, cell counting and analytics were manual processes, which can be tedious. I’m helping automate the process for analyzing microalgae cells, making it more efficient, accurate, insightful, and scalable. The cell analytics platform offers predictive analysis, so we can determine what is and isn’t working, and pivot accordingly. Another project in the works is the biodiscovery platform, which uses AI optimization and search capabilities to discover natural products more efficiently by narrowing down criteria in external libraries. Using AI gives us more control over the process, saving us precious time and resources by enabling us to target our work more efficiently and focus our experiments on areas that are more likely to have an impact.

Using AI gives us more control over our processes, saving us precious time and resources by enabling us to target our work more efficiently and focus our experiments on areas that are more likely to have an impact.

What do you like most about Provectus Algae and your work?

The decision-making process involves a lot of creativity and problem-solving, which is fun and engaging. I also enjoy working with state-of-the-art technology and a fantastic team of smart people. We’re finding solutions for challenging questions—questions that no one else in the world has solved yet.

What are some accomplishments you’re most proud of?

I’m proud of my contribution in developing automatic models for cell detection and analysis at Provectus Algae. Before joining, I worked on a passion project at the University of Oxford with Professor Rafal Bogacz, a well-known computational neuroscientist. We developed brain-inspired machine learning models based on probabilistic theories.

Are there any interesting lessons you’ve learned in your career?

I try to never be the smartest person in the room. That’s helped me to keep learning and stay humble by listening to different perspectives.

Who do you consider to be a role model, mentor, and/or hero and why?

My supervisor at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute, Professor Peter Hunter, has had a big impact on my life. He’s a distinguished professor, and he supported me, not only from a professional standpoint, but also through some personal situations. I admire his work ethic, and he’s just a great scientist and a decent human being.

Big question, but what would you say inspires or motivates you?

I’m inspired by what we, as humans, are capable of. Since the beginning of civilization, we’ve been trying to answer who we are, where we came from, and where we’re going. I like to feel I’m contributing to this forward progression, even if it’s just a little bit. I want to help achieve something that’s valuable to society.

I’m inspired by what we, as humans, are capable of. Since the beginning of civilization, we’ve been trying to answer who we are, where we came from, and where we’re going.

What do you like about working in Noosa?

Actually, I am currently living in Sydney, but I lived in Noosa/Sunshine Coast for three months. It’s a beautiful place with a small-town, resort vibe. I love the coffee shops and restaurants, where the employees know you by name.

Besides being a Rubik’s Cube champ, what else do you do in your free time?

I like to read, listen to podcasts, and play video games and board games. I’m also a pretty good cook—pizza is my specialty.

Any books or podcasts you’d recommend?

A great book I recently read is A Thousand Brains by Jeff Hawkins. It’s about how the brain works, and implications for its relation to machine and artificial intelligence. I listen to the Huberman Lab podcast by Stanford professor Andrew Huberman, which covers mental health and general health from a neuroscience perspective.

In your opinion, what are the most exciting things happening in biomanufacturing, biotech, and synthetic biology spaces right now?

I’m excited about companies like Provectus Algae, who are extracting natural products from sources never thought of before, like bacteria, yeast, algae, and plants. These products have the potential to be more sustainable, environmentally friendly, and carbon negative. I like to think we can leverage the full potential of the natural world—without harming it.

Want to Learn More about Provectus Algae’s Biotechnologies and Biomanufacturing Platform?

Read more about how machine learning and AI can help synthetic biology companies scale-up their biomanufacturing efforts in this STAT article by Preston Toole, CTO of Provectus Algae.