Pumas-AI looks to democratize access to drug development tools - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Pumas-AI looks to democratize access to drug development tools

The University of Maryland, Baltimore startup recently completed a big upgrade for its 2.0 version. Here's why the cofounders say it matters for science, and healthcare.

Computer-aided drug discovery is a growing field.

(Photo courtesy of Sinai Hospital BioIncubator)

For the cofounders of University of Maryland, Baltimore startup Pumas-AI, technology has the power to democratize access to advanced tools.

The startup’s pharmaceutical modeling and simulation platform has two products, both aimed at providing quantitative analysis during drug development. One, Pumas for Enterprise, is designed to be used by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and their investors. Another, which is available for free, is designed for academics. The company developed its software through a partnership with Julia Computing, an MIT spinout which seeks to bring products to the world that use the Julia programming language and recently raised $24 million. It effectively makes the startup an entry point for healthcare into using Julia.

A year after launching its platform, the startup recently was granted a new license from the university for technology that underlies Pumas 2.0. This allows it to use inventions from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy’s Center for Translational Medicine.

“We now have enhanced capabilities and features which allows the users to gain deeper insights into drug development questions,” said Dr. Joga Gobburu, the company’s CEO and a university professor who directs the Center for Translational Medicine. It adds capabilities for productivity, data analysis and compliance. He added that it’s a “major upgrade.” It seeks to bring efficiencies and speed of calculation to the process of developing a new pharmaceutical, which can take upward of a decade to bring to market. For users, the company created an environment where users don’t have to use different platforms to access needed technology.

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Pumas-AI is working to make those enhancements accessible. That’s where the democratization comes in. It’s important for a field that has developed advanced science for the process that centers in on the pharmaceuticals that can improve human life. Now Pumas-AI wants to make those more widely available.

“We’ve come into the picture to not only democratize the tools — but by democratizing the tools through cloud access, we are democratizing the science,” said Dr. Vijay Ivaturi, the company’s chief scientific officer and a professor at the pharmacy school.

Making the technology available on the cloud is particularly important, Dr. Ivaturi said. It’s a differentiator for the company, for one, and it also lines up with the technology moves being made by many pharma companies. But it also means that a scientist doesn’t need to have access to a high-end computer or data center to benefit from Pumas-AI’s technology. That’s especially important in developing countries, where resources may be more limited.

The team has 33 members globally. Going forward, it is looking to continue to hire and grow.

“Pumas provides deep intelligence that enables pharmaceutical scientists to continue pushing innovation,” said Phil Robilotto, associate VP of UMB’s Office of Technology Transfer and director of Baltimore’s UM Ventures, in a statement. “Pumas is experiencing rapid growth, and UM Ventures looks forward to continuing to support the company as it elevates this integrated modeling and simulation platform as the new industry standard.”

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