Pharmatics, a start-up based at The University of Edinburgh has won the Edinburgh BioQuarter Innovation Competition 2011, Monday July 18 2011
Pharmatics, a young biosciences start-up based
at The University of
Edinburgh, has won the inaugural Edinburgh
Innovation Competition 2011, winning £13,000 in prize
money and professional services from sponsors. Co-founder Dr Felix
Agakov explains the winning technology...
What's your background?
I am from Russia, from the city of Cheboksary, East of Moscow.
About 10 years ago I came here on a scholarship with Shell to do an
MSc in artificial intelligence at the University of Edinburgh.
School of Informatics at the University is famous for its
artificial intelligence research and its informatics research. I
was always interested in these areas and as soon as I learned a
scholarship was available, I came to Edinburgh. I also completed a
PhD in machine learning at the university about 5 years ago.
Tell us about your innovation
The founders of Pharmatics have developed a prototype
intelligent software system which helps to uncover useful structure
in very complex biological data sets. The software automatically
learns from data and helps to reduce incomplete high dimensional
biological measurements into a handful of the most promising
markers. This provides drug developers with tightly focused,
testable hypotheses independent of disease type.
Why is this important?
We will be able to significantly accelerate the process of drug
development. This covers all stages from early stage drug discovery
to the late stage of bringing new drugs to market more efficiently.
Our software will replace hundreds of expensive interventionist
experiments for validating the causes of disease. This will lead to
a significant reduction in drug development costs because pharma
companies will be able to use relatively inexpensive, small,
short-run trials to predict what drugs will be effective against
long-term outcomes. Patients will benefit from better and lower
risk medication. The NHS might also benefit from the reduced cost
of care through targeted screening and early targeted drug
What happens next?
Pharmatics is still at a young stage and is based at The
University of Edinburgh's Centre for Population Health Sciences in
of Medicine. We hope to spin out very soon and are trying to
raise funds. One of our key priorities at the moment is to spin out
and secure contracts – early sales – in terms of consultancies for
academics, biotech, and biopharma companies, and we are working
towards this. We then want to reinvest that income into research
and development to convert our early stage software prototypes into
marketable software products.
How do you feel about winning this
It is very motivating and exciting. We wanted to have proof that
our ideas and our business strategy were sensible. The fact that we
won this competition makes us more confident we have a workable