New software supports virtual biotechs

John Reynders, VP of R&D Information at AstraZeneca

Virtual biotech groups have grabbed ahold of new software to tackle the complexity of discovering useful compounds as well as the management of the moving parts of R&D programs. By most definitions of virtual biotech, the lean operations lack wet labs and large staffs. They can't be too reliant on manpower, and technology helps them fill some of the gaps. 

On the discovery side, Nimbus has a partnership with Schrödinger that provides the Cambridge, MA-based startup with privileged access to Schrödinger's WaterMaps technology to improve their understanding of binding sites on molecules and to aid their hunt for new small-molecule drugs. The partnership with Schrodinger and the technology have helped to streamline Nimbus' virtual discovery effort, which operates with a lean staff of 8 full timers, according to company Co-founder Bruce Booth, a partner at Atlas Venture.

Try managing an entire portfolio of R&D programs with a virtual group. AstraZeneca's ($AZN) Neuroscience Innovative Medicines (iMed) unit has brought together several key technologies to support management and other aspects of advancing the London-based drug giant's R&D programs in Alzheimer's diseases and other neurological ailments as well as a growing number of collaborations with external experts. Its software partners--including Deloitte, Knode and Assay Depot--have given the virtual iMed key tools to bolster their efforts in the risky neuroscience field.

"What was recognized is for us to create the amplification required for a very small lean team of only 40 folks, and for us to enable them to orchestrate an entire neuroscience portfolio through a complex network of partners--it needed a huge technology component," John Reynders, AZ's vice president of R&D information, said in an interview. "The analogy would be … a 747 that you're flying, and yeah, you've got three or four guys flying this thing, but they also have a ton of computers up there."

New software supports virtual biotechs