Enlight Biosciences, a pharma industry-backed entrepreneurial venture, unveiled its newest portfolio company today, Knode. The Cambridge, MA-based startup, which is developing a LinkedIn-like social networking tool for drug companies, has formed strategic partnerships with AstraZeneca and other industry and academic partners, says David Steinberg, founding CEO of both Enlight and Knode.
Enlight was co-founded in 2008 by PureTech Ventures and a group of academics with the intention of developing technologies to solve common problems in the pharmaceutical industry. Its partners include AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN), along with a half-dozen other Big Pharma companies, such as New York area giants Merck (NYSE: MRK), Pfizer (NYSE: PFE), and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ). Previous companies to emerge from Enlight include Entrega, which is developing a drug-delivery technology, and Endra, which makes imaging technologies for animal studies.
Knode is designed to help pharma professionals locate the right experts for particular projects, such as drug-development efforts. Although many companies have implemented social networking tools in-house, those types of “Facebook for the enterprise” services, Steinberg says, just don’t cut it. “When you’re trying to undertake a specific project, it’s not just about who you already know, it’s about who you should know,” he says.
For example, say a pharmaceutical executive is putting together a new research team for an experimental drug and needs to identify scientists and development staff within his company who have experience working on the disease the drug targets. But through a series of mergers, the company has grown to 100,000 employees, including 10,000 R&D folks spread over a dozen research sites. Instead of asking around to identify the most qualified people, or using Google or some other imprecise search tool, that executive can type the name of the drug target into Knode, pull up a list of experts within the company, then instantly link through to those people’s patents, grant awards, and published journal articles. “Then you reach out to them and pull them into the project team,” Steinberg says.
In essence, Knode is a big-data play for the drug industry. To develop the algorithms behind the search engine, Knode’s staff of eight pulled in publicly available data from across the Internet. They also worked inside companies to tailor the platform to their needs, incorporating their … Next Page »