Startup Knode takes off with pharma fuel

Knode co-founder David Steinberg said the company has received financial backing from top pharma companies.

Knode has sprung to life with web-based software to enable life sciences stakeholders to hunt for top experts. Inspired by the unfulfilled needs of its pharma supporters, the startup has quietly developed a test version of its product in limited use at undisclosed drug companies and other organizations, Knode's co-founder and interim CEO, David Steinberg, told FierceBiotech IT.

Founded in 2011, Boston-based Knode is one of three outfits to emerge from Enlight Biosciences, a Boston-based company that develops enabling technologies for a co-op of Big Pharma supporters, which include Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), Pfizer ($PFE), Merck ($MRK), Novo Nordisk ($NVO), Eli Lilly ($LLY), AstraZeneca ($AZN) and Abbott Labs ($ABT). Steinberg, a founder of Enlight and a partner at PureTech Ventures, wouldn't name names, but Knode has received an undisclosed amount of financial backing from top pharma companies, he says.

Knode, which is housed in PureTech's Boston office, aims to provide collaboration-minded drugmakers and others with web-based software that connects them to experts both inside and outside of their organizations, Steinberg explains. The technology aggregates data from millions of scientific journals, patents, clinical trials, grants and other items. With sophisticated semantic mining, big data tools and algorithms, the system is designed to identify the best experts in biomedicine. In minutes, for example, pharma companies can find whizzes to aid in new target discovery or assemble a crack group to tackle specific projects.   

With a full product launch slated for this summer, Knode plans to offer a free online version of its software that includes data from the public domain. For paying customers such as drugmakers, Steinberg says, a company will be able to integrate Knode's technology with existing platforms such as Outlook and SharePoint and incorporate customers' own data to inform users' searches for pros in specific fields.

It's not surprising to learn of Steinberg's plans for the free version of Knode's software. He has been an outspoken advocate for open access to research as a means to speed up progress in life sciences research. And it turns out that unfettered access to content that now exists behind publishers' pay walls could also improve Knode's offerings.

"We can do a lot without open access," he says. "With it, we can do a lot more."