Network medicine startups
There are two (well, I’m sure there are really more) interesting new startups that combine medicine with networks, albeit in different ways. NuMedii (which appears to be shorthand for New Indications of Medicines) uses a data-driven approach to discover new indications for previously existing drugs. This is potentially very useful because existing drugs have gone through rigorous tests for toxicity etc. and are therefore easier to bring to the market rather than developing a drug from scratch. NuMedii’s technology is based on academic work from Stanford and they have a killer team that includes the likes of Atul Butte and Eric Schadt. The company is currently looking for what is essentially a bioinformatics-slanted big data scientist; one of the responsibilities related to this position is to “Architect, develop, maintain, and document a computational infrastructure that efficiently executes complex queries across many terabytes (potentially petabytes!) of disparate data and knowledge on genomics, genetics, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals.” Petabytes!
MedNetworks is also interesting, though a bit different. Its technology is based on the well-publicized work of Nicholas Christakis and colleagues at Harvard about how things like smoking and obesity appear to spread in social networks in an almost contagious way. (As an aside, I saw a random hipster at a Stockholm café sporting a copy of Christakis’ and Fowler’s book Connected: The Surprising Power of Out Social Networks – maybe network science is belatedly going mainstream here too!) MedNetworks studies things like how prescriptions of drugs are affected by the structures of social networks of physicians and patients. They attempt to identify “high influencers” in social networks, which is not necessarily the same as highly connected people. These high influencers have a strong influence on how drug prescribing behavior “diffuses” in a social network. Quoting the company website: “Optimized targeting for promotion based on social network influence provides a more efficient and effective approach to both personal and non-personal promotion.”