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March 16, 2011

Bill Gates Seeds Cloud-Driven Biopharmaceutical Company

Nicole Hemsoth

Ariel Schwartz at FastCompany recently profiled Nimbus, a biopharmaceutical company that is making big waves in the drug discovery space. The firm has made announcements about pending developments in obesity and lymphoma-fighting drugs. While there are already numerous efforts underway to tackle these conditions at any number of other pharmaceutical companies, Nimbus has a particularly “nimble” drug discovery model that hinges on cloud computing.

Nimbus has garnered some significant attention as of late beyond its upcoming obesity pill that aims to mimic the effects of exercise by preventing new fat and burning that which is stored. The company just received an undisclosed amount of financial backing from Bill Gates. Another contributor to the seed round was Dr. Richard Friesner, who founded the computational drug design company Schrodinger. 

According to the Schwartz, “The company’s secret sauce is its computer-inspired drug discovery approach, which uses cloud computing to simulate what a drug target looks like. This allows the company to do research overnight that would take months at other pharmaceutical companies.

During the brief interview Nimbus suggested that another ingredient of their secret sauce is that computational scalability and flexibility using the cloud model allows for more agility to consider a more extensive set of options during modeling and drug discovery.  In this case, the Nimbus process is unique in that it is able to consider the important role water plays during absorption of a drug since it can determine how well the drug is retained. 

According to Nimbus, this is something many companies cannot (or do not consider) because of the massive computational requirements it takes to factor this into the equation.

As the company’s Chief Business Officer, Jonathan Montagu noted, “It’s the difference between Google Maps and Google Earth…most drug companies have a two-dimensional view, but we have an understanding of how water molecules in a protein target impact drug binding. This gives you more of a three-dimensional representation of how a drug target works.”
 

Full story at Fast Company