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Spanish University spin-off uses supercomputing to speed drug discovery

A new bioinformatics company, Nostrum BioDiscovery, a spin-out created through the combined efforts of The Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and the Barcelona Supercomputing Center - National Supercomputing Center (BSC-CNS) – has been created to accelerate drug discovery through the application of high-performance computing.

Nostrum BioDiscovery aims to increase the speed and accuracy of research completed prior to the commercialisation of pharmaceuticals and biotechnological products. The company specialises in cutting-edge informatics tools, computing power, and research. 

Nostrum BioDiscovery predicts that its BioDiscovery could provide savings equivalent to about 40 million euros per new pharmaceutical product. This saving corresponds 15-20 per reduction in costs across the initial development phase, which can cost as much as 300 million euros. 

‘There are no easy drugs left to be discovered. Computational simulation cannot perform miracles, but it can significantly reduce the drug development process by increasing therapeutic strength, which has a positive effect on the entire development process,’ said Modesto Orozco, IRB Barcelona researcher, professor of the University of Barcelona and president of Nostrum BioDiscovery.

The company has come about in the context of a transformation of the pharmaceutical industry business model, which is moving from drug discovery "in-house" to a model that involves partially subcontracting research and development. ‘The quality of our technologies and the expertise of the team make us a valid and reliable option for companies that want to speed up the initial stages of drug design and to gain efficiency,’ commented Víctor Guallar, a scientist at the BSC-CNS, co-leader of the project, and also director of the Scientific Advisory Board of Nostrum BioDiscovery.

The creation of this spin-off has also been made possible thanks to the Bosch Gimpera Foundation of the University of Barcelona and the Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA).

The creation and launch of the company was driven by the Botín Foundation, whose technology transfer programme has provided one of the research groups involved support and assessment over five years. The Botín Foundation has invested half a million euros of start-up capital in Nostrum BioDiscovery through its Mind the Gap Programme, which backs early-stage entrepreneurial projects.

Through its Mind the Gap Programme, the Botín Foundation seeks to bridge the gap between science and the company to ensure that ‘highly innovative and viable research reaches the market and eventually benefits patients,’ explained Íñigo Sáez de Miera, director general of the foundation, during the presentation of the Nostrum BioDiscovery.

The Botín Foundation is currently supporting the work of 28 scientists in Spain. It has achieved 48 patents and 27 agreements with companies, in addition to providing employment opportunities for 447 young researchers and technicians. Nostrum BioDiscovery is the fifth company to be backed by this initiative. The companies covered by Mind the Gap have generated 25 direct jobs, most of which are highly qualified, and achieved a turnover of more than €600,000 in 2015.

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