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Companies in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries are experiencing a paradigm shift. The trend for a model based on in-house drug discovery is being replaced by a model in which large groups outsource research and development policies to make the process more affordable and reduce risks.

This is the backdrop for Nostrum BioDiscovery, a new spin-off from the Barcelona Supercomputing Center-Centre Nacional de Supercomputació (BSC-CNS) and the Biomedical Research Institute (IRB Barcelona). It uses computer simulation to help companies accelerate the first phase of development for new drugs and molecules, known as the drug discovery phase, and helps launch products on the market.

Nostrum BioDiscovery is the result of collaboration between research teams led by Modesto Orozco, from IRB Barcelona, and Víctor Guallar, from BSC-CNS. It involves collaboration from the Bosch i Gimpera Foundation (UB) and the Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA). The Botín Foundation has provided 500,000 euros to fund the initial capital for the project (over a year and a half), through the business acceleration program Mind the Gap. According to managing director Josep Oriol Nicolás, the company is aiming to make five million euros in five years.

 “There are no easy to discover drugs left, every year fewer drugs are released on the market and they are extraordinarily expensive. The computer simulation does not work miracles, but it allows the process to be significantly reduced, increasing the therapeutic effect of the drug" said the president of Nostrum BioDiscovery, Modesto Orozco.


A commitment to cutting-edge technologies and precision medicine

The spin-off boasts cutting-edge technology developed by the researchers Modesto Orozco and Víctor Guallar and their respective teams. The company has also used technology from UB, ICREA, the University of Nottingham, the FECYT and the Barcelona Science Park, who they have signed license agreements with.

These technologies combine, facilitate and increase the accuracy of studies before drugs and biotechnology products are launched, which means that in the best case scenarios the drug discovery phase can be accelerated by two years, with a cost reduction of between 15 and 20%. This means savings equivalent to 40 million euros, taking into account that the initial phase requires an average investment of 300 million euros.

The technology has also been shown to be effective to discover drugs in the context of precision medicine, allowing for research geared to each treatment target, according to the genetic characteristics of the same.

The advanced technologies they work with include PELE simulation (to predict the interaction between proteins and ligands), ED/MD simulation (to explore the flexibility of macromolecules targets and their use when designing drugs), a set of programs called MDWeb that enable quicker workflows for automated calculations of molecular dynamics, and the MoDEL database, which contains simulations of over 1,700 proteins based on their properties and is the second largest database in the world with these characteristics.

The new company is part of the BioRegion of Catalonia, and is the first spin-off from BSC-CNS after years of research and collaboration between the center and IRB Barcelona. The institutions have run a joint program in Computational Biology since 2007, funded by ERC Advanced Grants and the Botín Foundation. The Center for Genomic Regulation joined in 2014. The company shareholders are the Botín Foundation (private sector), IRB Barcelona, BSC-CNS, the UB, ICREA and the company's team, which is made up of six people.

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