Compendia Bioscience Morphs Into Big Pharma’s Cancer Genomics Partner

Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor — 

Compendia Bioscience has evolved significantly since it spun out of the University of Michigan with its cancer genomics research software four years ago. Instead of just selling software and moving on to the next customer, Compendia co-founder and CEO, Daniel Rhodes, says that his firm has prospered by forming close ties to pharmaceutical companies that rely on the firm’s expertise and technology.

“We’re transforming from a software company only to really a collaboration partner with pharma, where we are licensing them access to our technology but also providing expertise and services,” Rhodes says. “So it’s a really exciting time for our company right now.”

Ann Arbor, MI-based Compendia is capitalizing on large pharmaceutical companies’ greater reliance on external firms like itself for developing new products, as their own internal research pipelines have run dry. As its name suggests, Compendia has built a compendium of cancer genetic data from published journal articles, academic and government databases, and about the molecular profiles of about 43,021 actual cancer patients’ tumors.

The firm’s software includes advanced analytics and search capabilities that enable scientists to mine its database and conduct analyses for their cancer research. For example, the firm’s Web-based software aims to give drug researchers insights into the biology, regulation, pathways, and patient populations to aid in the development of new therapies to combat tumors.

A major source of demand for Compendia’s software comes from life sciences firms that want to find out which genes are found in patients that are likely to benefit from a certain drug. The firm formed an alliance last year with MDS Pharma Services, in which the companies would use both Compendia’s cancer genomics software and MDS’s cancer cell screening services to help drug companies predict which patients would be likely to respond to their new cancer therapies. Separating the winners from the losers early on is a big deal in an industry where only one out of every 10 drugs that enters clinical trials ever becomes an FDA approved product.

Besides helping its pharma customers boost the odds of success, Compendia has also made some discoveries of its own. For instance, Rhodes and his team used the firm’s software to discover a gene called SPINK1 that is over-expressed in a subset of men with … Next Page »

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