Making it Work: Pharma software firm BioSimulytics aims to help accelerate drug development

The Dublin company has just raised €600,000 in seed funding and is already planning a string of hires to help growth in the rapidly evolving pharmaceutical industry

Peter Doyle, Christian Burnham and Niall English of Biosimulytics, a spin out of University College Dublin which has just raised half a million euro. Picture: Fergal Phillips

BioSimulytics, a Dublin-headquartered start-up, has just raised more than half a million euro and plans to become a global player in a rapidly growing industry.

The company, which aims to help pharmaceutical companies speed up their drug development processes, has developed software which it says can save time and money when it comes to getting new products to market.

Last week, the firm, a spin-out of University College Dublin, announced a successful seed funding round worth almost €600,000, with investment from angel investors and Enterprise Ireland, and it has also won its first contract with a major French company.

With awareness of drug development higher than ever due to the pandemic, two other European pharmaceutical firms are now evaluating the technology offered by BioSimulytics with a view to incorporating it into their research and development pipelines.

The company is already planning for another multimillion-euro funding round and expects to grow its headcount from seven to 20 people within two years.

The molecular modelling provided by BioSimulytics is powered by artificial intelligence and can accurately predict the fastest and most efficient way of making a molecule into a medicine.

In an industry where up to €200 billion is spent every year on drug development, the firm’s founders believe their business has the potential to become a key cog in the sector.

“When companies are developing a drug, they’ll start with thousands upon thousands of potential candidate molecules, and end up with one successful one getting to market,” Peter Doyle, co-founder and chief executive of BioSimulytics, said.

“It’s a huge amount of money with a very poor rate of return, so it’s wide open for better ways of doing it and getting a better return.”

This is where BioSimulytics is aiming to come in, with a solution based on a combination of quantum physics, computational chemistry, machine learning and high-performance computing which can cut the time it takes to develop medication from years down to months.

The sheer size of the pharmaceutical industry makes it difficult to find a niche, but BioSimulytics believes it is among the first to commercialise its computer-aided drug design solution.

“BioSimulytics is the culmination of three years of academic research looking at this as a problem,” Doyle said. “We just went back to the drawing board and said: ‘How could you tackle this in a way that would be fast, and applicable to any molecule of any size?’”

Niall English, the firm’s chief technical officer, and Christian Burnham, head of research and development, were the two who unlocked the algorithm that forms the backbone of BioSimulytics, Doyle added.

“Our breakthrough is to solve a very complex problem, with many different aspects, in a way that you can repeat on any molecule of any size, really quickly and without losing any of the accuracy.”

The closest competitor to BioSimulytics is an MIT spinout, XTalPi, which was founded in the US in 2014 and last year raised $300 million in a Series C funding round. “That’s the trajectory that we could potentially be on,” Doyle said.