Last year, consumer-products giant Unilever had a problem. The company wanted to make a meaningful impact in the ultra-crowded category of anti-aging cosmetics, but to do so, it had to come up with entirely new methods for fighting wrinkles. So it turned to Pennington, NJ-based startup BioLeap, which has developed a technology platform that helps scientists assemble new chemical molecules based on the likelihood that they’ll hit specific targets. “A million different things might cause wrinkles,” says BioLeap’s CEO David Pompliano. “We need to figure out those targets and then use a pharmaceutical approach to design molecules that work specifically against them.”
BioLeap was founded in 2004 with a new approach to “computational chemistry”—a method chemists use to predict whether experimental molecules will be effective against the targets they’re designed to hit. Computational chemistry has long been used in industries ranging from pharma to agriculture to energy. BioLeap’s technology seeks to improve upon those old methods by allowing chemists to build completely new molecules using the building blocks that are most likely to result in effective products. BioLeap has signed on a number of customers, including GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: BIIB) and agriculture-products maker Syngenta (NYSE: SYT).
What’s different about BioLeap’s approach is that it starts with tiny segments of molecules, and then calculates exactly where and how those pieces will bind to a target, such as a disease-causing protein. Chemists can then use that information to assemble the most effective … Next Page »