Big Data meets big idea in drug discovery
Partner, Third Rock Ventures
For more than a decade, Alexis Borisy has kept his radar on the most disruptive tech, seeking ways to apply game-changers in the biotech industry. He tapped next-generation sequencing and data-mining advances for one of his latest ventures, Warp Drive Bio, the company's name alone inspiring thoughts about rapidly advancing biotech discoveries.
Yet Borisy, a partner at Third Rock Ventures, has deftly matched big biotech ideas with big money. Warp Drive took off early last year with backing from the drug giant Sanofi ($SNY), among others, to create a Google ($GOOG)-inspired search engine of drug-like compounds in microbial genomes--or what Borisy dubs "Nature's Medicine Chest." It's the kind of wild idea based on sound tech advances that purveyors of "warp drive" story lines in the science-fiction world could appreciate.
He previously cofounded and served as interim chief at Foundation Medicine, a cancer diagnostics company that has also exploited rapid DNA sequencing and advances in other fields such as informatics to deliver results on cancer mutations. And he solidified his rep for mixing and matching technologies in biotech with CombinatoRx (now Zalicus), which used high-throughput screening, phenotypic assays and informatics to build a pipeline of drugs based on novel combinations of other compounds.
More recently, Borisy's entrepreneurial imagination has wrapped itself around the potential of big data to transform healthcare. Warp Drive expects to have sequenced some 100,000 microbial genomes by the end of this year, building its own big data repository for its drug-discovery engine. Yet he's already thinking about other new businesses that could harness the power of huge data sets to change the way drugs are developed.
"Imagine having 1 million cancer patients profiled with data sets available and accessible," Borisy said during a FierceBiotech panel in San Francisco last month. "Think how that very large data set might work--imagine its impact on what development looks like. You just look at the database and immediately enroll a trial of ideal patients."
Special Report: 10 Reasons Why Biotech Needs Big Data
Big Data has arrived in biotech. Now what?
Biotech leaders take on Big Data at Fierce event in San Francisco
Fueled by Sanofi, Warp Drive Bio takes off with $125M deal