Using data to find new drug-disease matches wins startup NuMedii its first pharma deal

Pairing existing drugs with new disease applications, using not wet labs but computers, has landed a Stanford startup its first contract with a pharmaceutical company.

NuMedii has signed its first product-focused deal with specialty pharmaceutical company Aptalis Pharma, which develops therapies for cystic fibrosis and gastrointestinal disorders.

The big data startup will use its predictive data platform to provide Aptalis with potential new therapeutic candidates, and New Jersey-based Aptalis will be responsible for the development and commercialization of the candidates it chooses. NuMedii will receive an undisclosed up-front payment and milestone payments, plus royalties on products that are commercialized.


Spun out of biomedical informatics researcher Atul Butte’s lab at Stanford University, NuMedii gathers billions of biological, pharmacological and clinical data points from public repositories like GEO, cleans them up, annotates them, and puts them into a usable format, said Scott Saywell, who’s in charge of corporate development for the company. That data is rolled into algorithms that match drug compounds with disease applications in which they could potentially be effective.

NuMedii’s solution takes aim at one of the pharmaceutical industry’s big drug development problems – that being the fact that despite costing billions of dollars to develop, only one in 10 drugs that begins clinical trials makes it to the market. The startup’s business strategy calls on CROs to validate its matches in preclinical tests, and specialty pharmaceutical partners to continue clinical development. Aptalis is the first partner of this kind, although the company says its technology has identified six drug candidates that have demonstrated pre-clinical activity in new indications.

Two of those new applications – GERD drug cimetidine for lung adenocarcinoma and anticonvulsant topiramate for inflammatory bowel disease – resulted in separate studies published in Science Translational Medicine last year (1 & 2).

“We are also in discussions with Big Pharma companies for collaborating on development of their drugs that have been deprioritized or discontinued due to failure to hit the efficacy hurdle but (have) demonstrated good safety,” Saywell said.

Founded by Butte and his wife, Gini Deshpande, a former marketing manager at Affymetrix and startup consultant, NuMedii was part of the incubator StartX Med’s inaugural class. Saywell added that the team is currently raising some initial capital.

[Last piece of the puzzle photo from BigStock]

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