by Jared Friedman4/29/2019
In the last 10 years, the tools for studying biology have become much less expensive and more widely available. This has made it possible for new startups to do serious research right from the start, and it is leading to an explosion of biotech startups.
One of the key tools that has brought down the cost of developing drugs is computational drug discovery. Until recently, the primary way drug companies found new drugs was by trying millions of chemical compounds, hoping one would work, and laboriously iterating their way to a drug. Atomwise (which is a YC company) is able to do those experiments in simulation on a computer, testing billions of compounds dramatically cheaper, faster, and far beyond the capability of physical screening.
About two years ago, Atomwise started the Artificial Intelligence Molecular Screen (AIMS) Awards program, which I think is a game changer. AIMS gives away Atomwise’s drug discovery service for free to researchers in academia. Today, when researchers at a university discover a promising opportunity for a new drug (in scientific terms, a “target”), they’re stuck in a catch-22. They need to raise funding to pay for drug discovery to find the right drug, but it’s hard to raise investment until they’ve found a compelling lead molecule! AIMS solves the catch-22.
AIMS has already helped over 200 researchers discover small molecule leads in diverse areas, including oncology, infectious diseases, metabolic disorders, and neurology. I believe this is the tip of the iceberg, and AIMS can unlock thousands of promising therapeutics ideas that would otherwise never have been developed.
Once researchers work with AIMS to develop drug candidates, the next step is to turn the research into a company. That’s where YC comes in. We’re going to work with Atomwise to give interested AIMS teams an expedited path to joining YC. For AIMS teams that want YC funding, we’ll guide them through the YC application process and prioritize their applications. For AIMS teams that we accept, we’ll invest in them, help them incorporate, and help them with the initial stages of commercialization – everything from figuring out their regulatory strategy to getting lab space.
In addition, Atomwise is going to make the free drug discovery service they pioneered in the AIMS program available as a benefit to all YC companies. This should help any YC company to develop a small molecule program faster than any other existing option.
We believe this is the golden age of drug discovery, and we’re thrilled to partner with Atomwise. The application deadline for Atomwise’s AIMS Awards program is May 31— and YC applications are always open.
Jared is Managing Director, Software and Group Partner at YC. He was cofounder of Scribd, which was funded by Y Combinator in 2006 and grew to be one of the top 100 sites on the web.