Undergraduate project spawns new tech startup What began as a University of Alberta undergraduate bioinformatics project in David Wishart’s research lab, became the world’s largest pharmaceutical knowledge database. Now it’s one of Edmonton’s fastest growing tech startups, called Drugbank.
It was created as an online tool for academics and researchers, to provide free, quick, easy access to consolidated drug and molecular data. During its time as an academic project, the database spread like wildfire, attracting the attention of many pharmaceutical companies. Seeing the commercial potential, the two former undergraduates Craig Knox and Mike Wilson, spun it off in 2015. Today, DrugBank’s free and commercial offerings are used by millions globally, from university researchers and students, to pharmacists, doctors, nurses, chemists, the public, large drug companies, and small/medium companies including health information, medical software and pharma companies.
Enabling drug discovery and repurposing; advancing patient health and careDrugbank’s name sums up its value proposition—the world’s pharmaceutical knowledge banked in one place. A one-stop shop for up-to-date scientific and clinical data, curated pharmacological, pharmaceutical and chemical data, information on approved drugs, investigational drugs and drug targets, drugs in early research, clinical trials and approval. The platform even offers drug-drug interactions and contraindication alerts.
Used by thousands of scientists to discover new drugs, analyze drugs, repurpose drugs and build predictive models. Drugbank helps lower drug R&D time and cost, getting new and repurposed drugs to market sooner. It also helps health providers, pharmacists, caregivers, nurses and the public find fast, easy reliable drug information, and enables data-driven health/medical decision making. The end result of which, helps save lives and improve patient care and health outcomes.
Drugbank’s ultimate goal—to enable major medical advancements, use artificial intelligence for drug discovery and repurposing, and power clinical solutions such as eMedical records software, precision medicine, digital health and telemedicine. As health and medicine become more and more data driven, and digital health and precision medicine grow, so too will resources like Drugbank.
Still supporting academic research + public accessFor Drugbank, supporting academic research and student education remains core. They continue to offer free, non-commercial datasets to academic researchers, and a free version of DrugBank with detailed information on many topics including pharmacology, chemical structures, targets and toxicology.
Successes and future plansIn its first five years, Drugbank grew from 2 to 43 employees and increased revenue 300%. Now they are moving from startup to scaleup. In 2020, the company completed an early-stage venture capital raise, grew its annual recurring revenue 40% per quarter, exceeded sales targets, closed two major partnership deals, completed a major machine-learning project, and developed an ambitious long-term corporate strategy. Now Drugbank has its sights set on the clinical health software space. In the next two years, they expect to increase annual revenue by 400% and grow the team by 300%. A key part of this growth strategy is leveraging local pharmaceutical sciences, pharmacology, computing science, and AI talent.