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Dealing with a deluge of data
CUPERTINO, Calif.—Imagine that you're Merck and have recently acquired Schering-Plough and want to rationalize the two companies' R&D programs, including their huge compound libraries, as quickly and efficiently as possible. You hear that NextBio helps organizations increase productivity and dramatically improve collaboration across therapeutic groups and geographic boundaries. Furthermore, the NextBio platform is delivered as a SaaS (Software as a Service) solution resulting in quick deployment and rapid return on investment. Sounds perfect, doesn't it? Apparently attractive enough that the Cupertino, Calif.-based company has announced a licensing agreement with Merck & Co. Inc.
"We are pleased Merck has chosen NextBio as a drug discovery and development partner," says Saeid Akhtari, co-founder and CEO of NextBio. "Merck's adoption of the NextBio solution validates our unique approach to solving the information bottleneck currently impacting research-driven pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies worldwide."
Financial details of the agreement aren't being released, but Akhtari indicates that it is a multi-year, multimillion-dollar deal.
The NextBio platform allows life science researchers to search, discover and share knowledge locked within both public and proprietary databases. The service provides secure data access, knowledge discovery and collaboration tools and enterprise integration capabilities for seamless correlation of internal research data.
"We said, let's look at the underlying data and extract information, index and tag it," Akhtari says, "then correlate it with other studies so researchers can query it. Gene expression, for example—what compounds can inhibit the expression of a specific gene. With NextBio, you get answers in real-time."
Akhtari likes to challenge people to Google "yeast treated with methanol" because NextBio typically pops up as the No. 1 result. This is the company's public site, but is structured much like its private enterprise site for which a single sign-on is necessary. The study overview appears on the entry page and a side menu provides access to bio sets and correlations. Akhtari estimates that there are 70 million similar pages.
NextBio enables researchers to search both private and public data to determine, again as an example, if a compound in a proprietary library may be correlated to a tissue sample in Japan. Both the public and private databases are accessible without any special expertise.
"Our goal is to eliminate 'redundant discover,'" Akhtari states, "in order to make drug discovery more efficient."
Even for an operation the size of Merck (with or without Schering-Plough), it will take only a few minutes to deploy the NexBio platform because of its SaaS configuration, says Andrew Grygiel, NextBio's VP of marketing.
"There is a single sign-on to go to the enterprise site which will be locked to Merck's IP address," Grygiel says.
Today, NextBio is used by more than a million researchers at the world's top commercial and academic institutions. The company's enterprise solution has been deployed at Burnham Institute for Medical Research, Celgene, Eli Lilly, Genzyme, Johnson & Johnson, Regeneron, Scripps Research Institute, Stanford University and Takeda, among many others. In Cupertino, it operates from an SAS 70 compliant data center that Akhtari notes is entirely scalable and multi-tier with built-in redundancy.