Covalent Data Inc. is looking to become a one-stop shop for drug companies, investment banks and venture capitalists to discover products available for license and company formation while helping academics get across the valley of death.
“We hope it can be the easy button for innovation discovery,” Matt Brewer, CEO, Covalent Data, told BioWorld Insight.
The company’s database combines information on grants and awards from places such as the NIH and the National Science Foundation, patents, SEC documents, publications and other information about each product. Covalent Data also has computers trawling websites with information about available assets such as those maintained by university tech transfer departments.
While the company caters to the buy side of the equation, and makes its money selling access to the data, its product is only as useful as the data in the database, so Covalent Data made the database editable by researchers. “It’s the last mile where machine intelligence can’t make the connection but a human can,” Brewer said.
The ultimate goal is to link up researchers with potential buyers. “We want to be able to help the researchers that don’t necessarily have the DNA of an entrepreneur,” Brewer said.
JDRF JOINS UP
Adding to the efforts, JDRF announced last week the addition of its grant awards to Covalent Data’s database.
JDRF – formerly called the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation – has issued more than $2 billion in research funding since its inception, but the nonprofit’s ultimate goal is to see its research funding result in new type 1 diabetes treatments. That obviously can’t happen if innovation is dying on the academic side of the valley of death.
“One of the biggest challenges is how do we connect the academic community that is developing these innovations to the commercial community who are interested in identifying transformative science,” Jit Patel, vice president of research business development at JDRF, told BioWorld Insight. “This is done in a very ad hoc way at the moment.”
Adding the grants to the database will make it easier for those on the buy side to directly identify innovations that JDRF has supported, but Patel sees a larger opportunity to develop an ecosystem to help buyers “understand a little bit better who that innovator is and how that innovator is tied to the broader community of the research in that topic area.”
“We’re convinced that this is going to help in commercializing the innovation that we are catalyzing in academia,” Patel said.
While the main purpose of loading the JDRF grants into the database was to help awardees commercialize the type 1 diabetes innovation that JDRF supports, the database has the fringe benefit of helping the nonprofit track where it’s getting the best bang for its buck.
Covalent Data and JDRF started with a pilot program of JDRF grant awards and linked the researchers to the downstream developments such as publications, patents and licensing deals.
“The results were very impressive – in that we could make connections that, without this engine, it would be very difficult to make,” Patel said. “It was clearly a no brainer that we should give them access to our entire grant portfolio so that we could help them help us better.”
In addition to seeing where its funding is having success and where it is falling short, JDRF can also see what other granting agencies are contributing to the same research to make sure it’s having the best effect. “Are we truly enabling an unmet need in terms of funding or are we just another dollar on top of millions of dollars the investigator is receiving?” Patel asked.
JDRF has elected to integrate its grant application review process into Covalent Data’s platform. In addition to streamlining the evaluation process, Patel said he hopes the database will help applicants get a sense of what the nonprofit is interested in funding as well as offering the potential to find fellow researchers to collaborate with.
“Obviously this is an experiment,” Patel said. “It will require others to use it so that it becomes a standard go-to place. That’s going to be the critical stage in making sure that we have the maximal potential out of the tool that we’re building.”