Pender Ventures: Announcing our Investment in DrugBank

We are excited to announce our investment in DrugBank, the world’s largest online database of structured drug information. Our investment coincides with the company’s recently announced $9M investment round where we are participating alongside BrightSpark Ventures, Amplitude Ventures and Theodorus Investment Funds.

Data plays a pivotal role across every discipline of medicine. From pharmaceutical research to clinical treatment guidelines, effectively utilizing data is now a prerequisite to improving outcomes and gaining efficiency. However, the promise of big data also represents a challenge for the data science teams tackling complex problems across medicine. Specifically, scientific literature and clinical trials are increasing at an exponential pace. Today, over 2 million scientific papers are published globally each year and 23% of reviews not updated after two years draw incorrect conclusions. To make matters worse, data generated from these activities is often unstructured text, with terminology that varies significantly by region or source.

Meanwhile, as the total price tag to develop a new therapy can be upwards of US$2.6-billion, the reward for effectively utilizing data has never been greater. To quote a recent Nature article: “A lot of that effectively goes down the drain, because it includes money spent on the nine out of ten candidate therapies that fail somewhere between phase I trials and regulatory approval. Few people in the field doubt the need to do things differently.” Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are showing promise in drug development. In some instances, these data-intensive approaches are cutting multi-year drug development timelines to mere months, while increasing success rates by 70%. However, no matter how sophisticated the AI or ML algorithm, data challenges remain a significant roadblock to meaningful results – with weaknesses in data structure, integrity or scope limiting output.

To tackle this problem, DrugBank has built one of the world’s most comprehensive and structured databases of pharmaceutical information. This database is used by 13 of the top 20 pharma companies and referenced in more than 30,000 academic citations. Spun out of the prominent Wishart Lab at the University of Alberta, the DrugBank platform is a culmination of over 15 years of biomedical research. The company is driven by a world-class team of researchers and operators who are committed to building the world’s most comprehensive pharmaceutical database.

In the same way that a Bloomberg Terminal empowers finance professionals, DrugBank empowers clinical researchers, academics and health-IT companies – providing pharmaceutical data to their fingertips. Data is highly curated, structured and updated daily to ensure quality and breadth of information. Users of the DrugBank platform spend less time painstakingly scraping and cleaning data, and more time deriving insights from data they know they can trust. The DrugBank platform has a wide range of use cases, from helping pharma researchers repurpose existing compounds to empowering health-IT software companies with drug-to-drug interactions.

DrugBank firmly aligns with our multiple Fund thesis areas – including data-centric solutions and the convergence of health and technology. As an investor with a strong focus on health-IT, we have firsthand experience of both the challenges to generate and the opportunities to utilize high fidelity health data. The north star for many of our health-IT companies is to deliver predictive, real-time insights that ultimately improve health outcomes. The barrier to building these solutions is not a lack of ambition, rather it’s the difficulty of generating actionable and trustworthy data on which solutions can be built. DrugBank is tackling this foundational problem head-on, and we couldn’t be more excited to begin the journey alongside them.