Healthcare might be undergoing some macro-challenges as governments worry about how they will pay for people’s health in their old age, but it is also throwing up opportunities for non-traditional providers to enter the wellness sector. Consumer goods companies, such as Nestlé, Coca-Cola and Unilever, are looking at how their products might be used to promote good health and thereby help prevent illness. In addition, technology-focused companies, such as Samsung, Google, IBM and Intel, are investing in deals where their databases or software can help solve problems or identify potential drugs or connect medical devices for more personalised and internetconnected diagnoses. This year, for example, the Advanced Computing Center of the University of Texas has furthered computational drug discovery by providing three-dimensional models of diseases to cut down the time required to discover drugs from months to days. Chandrajit Bajaj, professor of computer science at the university, said: "It takes 10 years to proof out a drug, and a billion dollars or more. Hence computational drug discovery is not only timesaving, but economicstells you this is the way we should be going. "More and more, they [individuals from the pharmaceutical industry] are moving into the computational drug screening arena, and more and more teams of people are working together. "The biophysicist, the biochemist and the synthetic chemist are sitting together with the computational expert, and they say it is giving them clues as to what they should be doing next." This follows work by University of Washington’s Prof David Baker using computer modelling to tailor proteins to fit precisely into the influenza virus to prevent infection. Last year, for instance, US-based drugs provider Merck formed a partnership with Canada-based Zymeworks, which uses proprietary software to develop biospecific antibodies, and GlaxoSmithKline’s and Eli Lilly’s corporate venturing groups were backers in US-based software provider Nimbus’s $24m series A round. Meanwhile technology companies’ corporate venturing units are investing in the sector, such as Google Ventures leading the $15m round for DNAnexus, a cloud-based human genome sequence storage and analysis company, and its consumer-facing peer, 23andMe. As the sequenced human genome becomes commonplace, the amount of data involved increases as part of the trend towards personalised medicine.
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Some healthy opportunities
Jun 13, 2012 • Global Corporate Venturing
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