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Stanford Spinoff NuMedii Commercializes Drug-Repurposing Algorithm, Seeks Pharma Partnerships


By Uduak Grace Thomas

NuMedii, a Stanford University spinoff, hopes to make its bread and butter by partnering with traditional and specialty pharmaceutical companies to identify new indications for existing medicines.

The company's business relies on a platform, called New Indications Discovery, based on bioinformatics tools that were developed at Stanford.

The system is comprised of a proprietary database of genome-wide molecular profiles for more than 300 diseases, other databases that contain drug efficacy information, and a set of integration and inference algorithms that match drugs with diseases based on gene expression signatures.

Besides helping drug developers find new uses for their drugs, NuMedii also plans to help these groups validate these potential indications using cell-based assays and animal models as well as come up with new drug formulations.

Additionally, the platform's capabilities could be extended to help customers differentiate their products from competing ones as well as locate new druggable targets and biomarkers, Gini Deshpande, the company's founder and CEO, told BioInform.

NuMedii was launched earlier this year to commercialize algorithms developed by a team of Stanford researchers led by Atul Butte, an associate professor of systems medicine in pediatrics at the university and director of the Center for Pediatric Bioinformatics at the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.

The team outlined its computational approach, validation protocols, and a sample use case in which it identified new treatments for inflammatory bowel disease, in two Science Translational Medicine papers published in August (BI 8/19/2011).

Deshpande said the group chose to commercialize the technology rather than offer it as an open source resource because of the amount of work that's required to make "academic-grade software" work in commercial settings as well as to manage "the grunt work" associated with running validation protocols and then reformulating the drug for its new use.

For instance, the Science Translational Medicine studies found that topiramate, which is used to treat psychiatric disorders and migraine headaches, fought inflammatory bowel disease in rats.

But IBD sufferers cannot simply start taking the drug for their disease since dosing regimens and drug formulations that work for its current indications may not be enough or could have adverse effects. Furthermore, topiramate has known toxicity issues, which would need to be addressed, Deshpande said.

NuMedii's focus, therefore, is the process of "translating the bioinformatic finding into something that then enables that drug to get developed for the new indication," she said.

"It's not just developing additional informatics methodologies, although that’s important to solidify the technology platform ... but we firmly believe that the value of informatics methodologies really lies in what comes out of these methodologies."

Its approach to drug repositioning sets NuMedii apart from other bioinformatics companies that offer drug discovery services based on proprietary algorithms and databases.

"We have not heard of any or know of any informatics firms that have de-risked new indications significantly through cell-based assays or animal models and provided a complete package to a pharma partner," Deshpande said.

Furthermore, she stressed that NuMedii is "not a services company." Rather, it is focused on forming "strategic partnerships" that are a "good fit for our platform."

Deshpande declined to provide specific details about the company's current partners or its pricing model.

NuMedii currently has a staff of six and is looking to hire additional informatics developers as well as consultants to help with clinical development, regulatory affairs, and formulation expertise.

Have topics you'd like to see covered in BioInform? Contact the editor at uthomas [at] genomeweb [.] com.