Molplex Pharamceuticals: A UK Small Business Success Story in the Cloud
When Molplex Ltd - Translating targets into drugs set up in 2010 its aim was to offer high-quality services on a pay-as-you-go model. These services are accessed through powerful online drug design systems. This approach aims to eliminate the high start-up costs of inventing new drugs which acts as a barrier to scientists outside well-funded big pharma companies.
Just under a year later it became a pilot in the European funded project VENUS-C, one of fifteen organisations that successfully took part in an Open Call bid. With access to large-scale computing resources (Barcelona Supercomputing Center and Microsoft Azure), the support of Newcastle University's eScience Central it was able to really take advantage of its powerful application for speeding up the discovery of new drugs. The Molplex Optiplex engine optimises the properties of new drugs in order to reduce side effects and minimise toxicity levels in the human body.
Molplex COO Vladimir Sykora said, “VENUS-C has enabled us to leverage large computing resources at low cost, providing the computing power needed to carry out large numerical optimisation tasks. These optimisation tasks enable us to find the right chemical compounds to treat serious diseases with minimal side effects and higher potency – all done virtually in the cloud. In this way, our internal and partnered drug discovery projects have a much higher chance of succeeding in the clinic”.
"Molplex participation in VENUS-C helped the developers improve the platform based on real world requirements. On the other hand, this small company benefitted from our experts and resources to speed up migration to the cloud. It is a win-win story we are proud to highlight", commented Andrea Manieri, from the Italian software company Engineering, who coordinated the project.
Looking back at some of the success over the last two years shows how enabling technologies like cloud computing can give a small business real competitive edge in the marketplace. In November 2012, Molplex raised £350,000 from the UK’s North West Fund for Biomedical, a fund managed by Spark Impact and funded jointly by the ERDF and the European Investment Bank. This funding has helped support the company's transformation into the first of a new class of an ultra-effective drug discovery business for infectious diseases, dermatology and cancer - its main drug discovery programmes.
But it doesn't stop here. In July 2013, Molplex Molplex wins UK Government RGF funding to establish an Optiplex laboratory to deliver new drugs for currently untreatable infections. More recently, the company has announced 17 new positions available at the Biohub facility in Alderley Park, Macclesfield from December 2013.
Ian Osborne, Director of Cloud and Government IT in the Information and Communications Technologies Knowledge Transfer Network (ICT KTN), believes that
the VENUS-C pilot "shows how the innovations at the heart of the European e-Science community can be brought to bear on commercial premises, providing quick access to large scale compute resource via a well-defined, standards based interface". He added, "this is very much the future of high performance computing for science and business. Capitalising on the research infrastructure investments made to enable such breakthroughs in science and discovery".