AI to accelerate drug discovery
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AI to accelerate drug discovery

Drug discovery in the pharmaceutical industry & academic laboratories is often a challenging process. This process is time sensitive as there several individuals who suffer from chronic to life-threatening diseases.

One such startup is riding the wave of data-led drug discovery and that is Elucidata. It was founded in August 2015 by two IIT alumni, Swetabh Pathak (IIT-Delhi) & Abhishek Jha (IIT-Bombay), The startup Elucidata accelerates drug discovery through its Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled platform, Polly. It uses data science to reduce the time taken to discover life-saving drugs that impact human lives significantly.

In a research conducted by the MIT Laboratory for Financial Engineering, it was discovered that only 13.8% of drug programs make it from phase I to the approval phase, a much higher figure when compared to the regular estimates of 5 to 10%.

The figure is even higher if the cancer trials are excluded as cancer drugs have the lowest success rate. The research was conducted through an automated algorithm that draws data from nearly 1,86,000 unique trials of over 20,000 compounds from January 2000 to October 2015.

Abhishek Jha and Swetabh Pathak co-founded Elucidata in the year 2015with offices in New Delhi, Bengaluru & Boston.

Abhishek who is an IIT graduate did his postgraduate from the University of Chicago & Postdoc at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Before co-founding this startup, he worked with Agios Pharmaceuticals.

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Swetabh Pathak, on the other hand, did both his M Tech & B Tech from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. He worked as a product manager with Avanti Learning Centres as a product manager. Swetabh also worked with Opera Solutions as a business analyst before co-founding Elucidata and moving into the bio-medical data & tech space.

AI to accelerate drug discovery
Co-Founders of Elucidata; Swetabh Pathak and Abhishek Jha.

It was at Agios pharmaceuticals that Abhishek realized that data generation has been modernized and technology has advanced over the years. But, making sense of this large data still lagged way behind. The wealth of huge data was being under-utilized by limited capability & technology to analyze it. Hence, they started Elucidata with the idea to bridge the gap and impact human lives, Swetabh said.

Polly helps in drug discovery by collecting data, giving insight by running statistical and machine learning models, visualizing it in charts to be shared with one’s team and discussing further through collaboration.

Polly platform has a number of features such as processing raw medical data in minutes, delivering pathway-level insights, tools for quick customization, among others.

On Polly, you can analyze omics and phenotypic data. The cloud platform Polly platform helps in deriving insights from diverse publicly available datasets. The workflow allows users to cut the data analysis from days to hours and produces comparable data output that is easier to manipulate and plot. Polly reduces time, hassle, & significantly increases throughput. These workflows are currently being used by scientists at organizations like Pfizer, Cygnal Therapeutics, the NIH, & Yale to cut down the time span required for its end-to-end analysis, said Swetabh.

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This software can be purchased as an annual subscription with 3 types of offerings:

Polly Pipelines: It is a suite of customizable pipelines for analytical chemists or biologists to analyze and process a variety of biomedical data.

Polly Compute: It is a robust, scalable, secure computational infrastructure or bioinformaticians to build, manage and operate custom pipelines.

Polly Discover: It is an AI-enabled technology for the integration of biomedical data to enable biologists to discover therapeutic assets.

This runs on a software-as-a-service, SaaS, based licensing model. Elucidata has partnered with some of the core facilities such as VIB Center for Cancer Biology, University of Louisville, Lorkiewicz Laboratory, Van Andel research institute, among others.

Bootstrapped for the first 2 years, the startup raised $1.7 million in seed funding from Hyperlane Venture Capital in 2017. It has utilized the fund to expand its operations in New Delhi, as well as, build the Cambridge team in New England.

This startup is currently collaborating with top universities in both the US & UK, such as MIT, Yale, and UCLA, where the laboratories are of state-of-the-art, and helps the startup provide solutions.

Now, Elucidata is close to raising its Series A round of funding. Apart from the existing offices in Bengaluru & New Delhi, it is looking to expand to more places in the US & Europe.

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Ria Roy completed her Post Grad degree at the Visvesvaraya Technological University. She has a great grounding in the skills, including technical, analytical and research skills. She is a motivated life science professional with experience of working in famous research institutes