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From lab to marketplace: York spin-out business aims to improve efficiency of drug development

Posted on 22 October 2014

SimOmics, a University of York spin-out business which aims to make drug design quicker and more efficient, is celebrating its launch and first major contract.

Replacing animals with computer models in drug discovery. Credit: Phil Roberts, University of YorkReplacing animals with computer models in drug discovery. Credit: Phil Roberts, University of York

The business is based on innovative computer modelling software which can help drug developers predict the effects of new drugs on autoimmune diseases, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Type 1 Diabetes, and Multiple Sclerosis.

The result of eight years of collaborative research by the University of York and the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies (TPIMS) in the USA, SimOmics also aims to support the 3Rs agenda: replacement, refinement and reduction of animals in research.

Recently SimOmics won its first major contract as part of a consortium led by York’s Centre for Immunology and Infection (CII). The consortium has successfully secured a £1 million award to create a computer-based “virtual laboratory” to aid the search for new treatments for leishmaniasis, a worldwide parasitic disease associated with poverty.

The funding is part of the UK’s National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), the CRACK IT Challenges programme. Part of the award will be used by SimOmics for computer simulation and associated tools to help predict the efficiency of drugs, vaccines and other treatments for leishmaniasis. Use of SimOmics technology is expected to significantly reduce the number of rodents needed in the pre-clinical stages of drug and vaccine development.  

SimOmics was founded by Professor Jon Timmis from York’s Department of Electronics, Dr Mark Coles from York’s Centre for Immunology and Infection, and Professor Vipin Kumar from TPIMS.

Professor Timmis, Chief Executive Officer of SimOmics and a Royal Society-Wolfson Research Merit Award Holder, received an Enterprise Fellowship from the Royal Academy of Engineering earlier this year which provided £85,000 as well as ongoing business training and mentoring to support him in commercialising the software and developing the spin-out business.

Professor Timmis said: “SimOmics is an exciting development for the Yorkshire region and demonstrates how research at York can have a direct impact on society as a whole. In the long-term our software will result in a more efficient drug pipeline, which will allow drug manufacturers to get drugs out to the people who need them more quickly and cheaply.”

The new modelling software, which was developed with support from the University’s Centre for Chronic Diseases and Disorders (C2D2), is capable of integrating more data types than current systems and has two key areas of application in the field of immune and inflammatory diseases – therapeutic development and personalised medicine.

Autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, where the immune system attacks its own tissues, affect 10 per cent of the UK’s adult population and are a leading cause of death and disability.

Dr Coles, Chief Scientific Officer, SimOmics said: “We are excited at the prospect of supporting the UK pharmaceutical and bio-tech industry and helping them to get their products from the lab to the marketplace more efficiently.  Use of this technology is expected to significantly reduce the necessity for animal testing in therapeutic development and produce a better understanding of how patient heterogeneity and compliance affects clinical trial outcomes.”

For more information on SimOmics visit http://www.simomics.com/

Further information:

  • CRACK IT challenges programme: The winning team for the Virtual Infectious Disease Challenge consists of researchers from the Centre for Immunology and Infection (CII) in York, the University of Glasgow, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Pharmidex, SimOmics and Cybula. Cybula is also a University of York spin-out business and provides world-leading search engine technology (http://www.cybula.com).
  • CRACK IT Challenges fund collaborations between industry, academics and small and medium sized enterprise (SMEs) to solve problems related to the 3Rs, leading to new products or improved business processes. Large pharmaceutical and chemical industries act as ‘Sponsors’, defining relevant Challenges and providing in-kind contributions, such as access to data, compounds or equipment. For more information about The CRACK IT Challenges programme, visit www.crackit.org.uk/crack-it-challenges
  • The Royal Academy of Engineering: Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship - comprising the UK's most eminent engineers - provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain's engineering community. Further information is available here: www.raeng.org.uk
  • The Centre for Chronic Diseases and Disorders (C2D2) was established by the University of York with the support of the Wellcome Trust to coordinate and maximise the impact of research into alleviating the world-wide burden of chronic diseases and disorders.
  • More information on the University of York’s Department of Electronics at www.york.ac.uk/electronics
  • For more information on the Centre for Immunology and Infection at the University of York visit www.york.ac.uk/cii/

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