Barry Bunin – CDD 1 of 2

"Chemistry is key–surround yourself with people that you're excited to work with." CDD is the world's first online collaboration software platform for drug discovery.

Matthew:
Hi this is Matthew Wise with FounderLY.com. We empower entrepreneurs to have a voice and share their story with the world, enabling others to learn about building products and starting companies. So I am very excited today because I am here with Dr. Barry Bunin, who is the founder and CEO of Collaborative Drug Discovery, which is also known as CDD. CDD is a leading cloud-based collaborative drug discovery software platform. With that said, Barry, I’d love for you to give our audience a brief bio.
Barry:
Sure, um, I came from the lab initially working trying to discover molecules. I come actually from a family of doctors so when I was starting doing research, I was also interested in new ideas and had to decide between being an Eastern religion major or a chemistry major and I started teaching high school chemistry as an undergraduate and then got interested in how can you discover something new and have a bigger imprint. And then at Berkeley I did my Ph.D., taking the idea of diversity from nature, and the antibodies for your immune system and applying it to make 10,000 analogs of valium, benzodiazepines, and that started the field of (unintelligible – 00:01:23) chemistry. I got interested in (unintelligible – 00:01:26) because I started thinking about what are all the experiments done by all the scientists on the planet.
And for my first company Libraria to build databases and then with CDD thought of a more scalable way of doing this where you can make a software once and make it so it supports the way people really collaborate, either in companies or academia or foundations or government labs and now it is being used by scientists all over the world. And I will tell you a little bit more about CDD as you ask more questions.
Matthew:
So what makes CDD unique? Who’s it for? And why are you so passionate about it?
Barry:
Well, I actually saw this with my last company. So there are a lot of researchers that would like the infrastructure that big pharma has. Big pharma may have a billion dollar IT budget more than a software company and what’s happening today is that one drug isn’t discovered by one organization. The cost is like putting a man on the moon and so it’s now more economical for one group to be the best at discovering the target, another to discover the molecule, another to develop it, and for all these groups to work through the Web they need a simple way to do that, and a simple secure way. So we’ve had two advances at CDD. We’ve made it idiot proof easy for scientists to just upload and mine their own data to pick the best drug to move forward and we’ve also made it collaborative so that means people can securely and selectively share with whoever they want to work with. Those two advances have really led to (unintelligible – 00:03:04) we see today.
Matthew:
And who are your primary customers?
Barry:
So there’s two types of customers I could think of: those that are looking for a more cost–effective way to handle their drug discovery data. So a little bit like maybe when QuickBooks first came out or Salesforce first came out. Those types of software, a small business could use them. So if someone’s raised Series A, Series B financing as a biotech company they’d be silly not to go with an organization like CDD because they can more economically advance their drugs on a tight budget. There is no software to install, no hardware to install, and much like Salesforce instead of advancing your customer prospects you advance your drug prospects.
So just a little bit of context on the drug discovery process, someone may test thousands of molecules against enzymes, to pick the top 100 to do in cells and phenotypic screens to pick out 10 to test in animals for one to test in humans and that process of intelligently picking the best one to avoid a future (unintelligible – 00:04:11) problem or to discover something you wouldn’t have expected like with Viagra or (unintelligible – 00:04:15), that there’s an art which scientists use for matching their data. And so we help people do that more economically by looking at what is the activity, what is the selectivity, what is the therapeutic window between activity and toxicity for safe administration of the drug.
To answer your question it’s the startup companies but it’s also academics. So increasingly the new discoveries, the new biological targets are coming out of academia. So academics at, in California, UCSF, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA, on the east coast, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, MIT, Johns Hopkins, a lot of these leading academics log into CDD and use this for their collaborations. So those are the small guys but we also have some bigger foundations, like with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation where it is a big honor because we can help support developing world disease, which has been a passion of mine and we can do it economically when we work with a bigger organization like that because we can do one collaboration and then support numerous researchers working together, in that example, with tuberculosis.
Matthew:
What are some of the technology and market trends that currently exist in your space and where do you see things developing in the future?
Barry:
It’s part of the trend of globalization. The world is flat and everything’s getting more competitive and so the trend is clearly to try and discover drugs faster, more economically, and it’s hard because the easy problems have been solved and we’re left with the very complex problems like Alzheimer’s disease, which takes years to develop, or drug-resistant infectious disease where it’s actually intellectually it’s a challenging problem and so you have this sort of confounding situation where the easy stuff’s been done, the hard stuff is left and because of trying to control costs on healthcare, there’s… in the global economy, there’s increasing pressure. Now on the positive side there’s always more people and human health it’s not like you’re dealing with a problem that people kind of care a little bit about, this is potential life or death matters, or human health, that’s something everyone can relate to. So people aren’t going away, therefore the market isn’t going away.
Matthew:
Can you tell us what inspired you to start CDD? How did you come up with the idea or the concept and how did you actually decide to launch the company?
Barry:
So I had the good fortune of working as an entrepreneur in residence at Eli Lilly so I had a six-month extended to nine-month opportunity to explore two ideas. One was to have a second drug on the market in an exciting place, that is a very common process I mentioned earlier to you, that half a dozen HIV protease inhibitors came out around the same time for AIDS, so that was sort of one option and that could focus on one drug, and then this was a little more of a disruptive transformative model where we look at the economics of the whole process and how can we make the whole drug discovery process engineer faster, not just for one lab but for all the labs, and for me that was something that I could get up in the morning and get excited about. So I had the opportunity to approach this idea and it wasn’t just my idea it was my colleagues as Lilly.
And one of the interesting things was some of our early customers at UCSF especially Jim (unintelligible – 0:07:54.8) was working on African Sleeping Sickness and jaundice disease and so in addition to the economic imperative, there was almost beyond that, there was a just sort of doing the right thing while you’re on the planet aspect to this. And so the fact that I could create a company that could help the economics of drug discovery and at the same time help for human health where the poorest people aren’t getting good medicines was doubly motivating for me, and not just for me but it’s actually been great for all the employees, for the marketing, for the messaging, for the goodwill. So something that seemed like maybe a detour, “Why are you working on neglected diseases?” has been from, even just from a Machiavellian (unintelligible – 0:08:34.3) perspective it’s been the smartest thing we could do for generating some good PR and messaging for the company.
And then finally on the technical side we have the ability to have data, I talk about the telescopic or microscopic view data can be completely public and open and shared. So I was initially going to call it Open Source Drug Discovery but that’s too radical for how people really want to work and so Collaborative Drug Discovery people can control if and when and with whom they share it with. So the default, and the vast majority worked with data just by themselves and their groups or maybe with one or two other collaborators. But, um, temporally you can decide if, when, and with whom to share, and so that’s an aspect that is relevant for both neglected disease and commercial.
Matthew:
From idea to product launch, how long did that take, and when did you actually launch?
Barry:
Um, so as I mentioned, we had this luxury which most people don’t have when launching a company, of being within the womb, if you will, of Eli Lilly to get a working prototype and establish that there are customers who would actually buy this. And then after that my life sort of became a bit of a negotiation to figure out how to do this in a way that’s good for incubating organization and good for the independent company and then we kind of did it like a bootstrap where we were working in my living room and stuff for a few years and then managed to get support not just from Eli Lilly but from Founders Fund which invested in Facebook and Omidyar Network, which Pierre Omidyar is the founder of eBay, so we wanted groups that knew how to scale things on the Internet but also had the domain expertise within drug discovery, our initial area of, or our complete area of focus right now. So once that occurred then we were able to build a more robust product that, you know, is really meeting the needs now of thousands of researchers logged into CDD.
Matthew:
And so when did you launch the first product?
Barry:
Um, you know as I said there was sort of an early version, maybe 2004, 2005, and then we had to struggle a bit until we got financing and then I think it’s been three years since we’ve needed any capital. In any case around 2008 or so is when I would say it became ready for prime time.
Matthew:
Are there any unique metrics or social proof about CDD that you would like to share with our audience?
Barry:
Yeah, I was thinking for your audience you could think of like the Huffington and where the blogosphere where there are certain people that are marquee names that you want to engage. The same is true, so in drug discovery and in academic science people know who the A+, the best funded researchers are, the future Nobel laureates etc. we are working with a number of those at the marquee academic organizations and the startups getting funded, and five of the top ten big pharmas we’ve announced collaborations with, so qualitatively, just getting the top scientists working with you is a validation. Quantitatively the metric which I like to share, last year we got 21,170 logins just last year, and that’s only going to increase.
Matthew:
Wow.

 
 

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