In the Relay 201 series, we’ll hear from Relay’s biggest supporters: board members and advisors. We’ll tackle expert opinions on industry trends. To learn more about Relay’s executive team, check out the Relay 101 series.
Dr. Larry Miller is a man who needs no introduction. He is the founder and CEO of Activate Networks, a network analytics company that identifies and understands the key social connections that drive commercial, organizational, and health results. Dr. Miller has invested in over 25 companies as a Venture Capitalist in Boston. Prior to founding Mediphase Venture Partners, Dr. Miller served as senior vice president at Hambrecht & Quist Capital Management, executive vice president and director at Avicenna Systems Corp, and vice president of HPR Inc. before it went public in 1995. A physician by training, Dr. Miller has also consulted for some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. Larry has been an invaluable resource for Relay since 2008 when he met Relay co-founders David Greenwald and Brigham Hyde at Tufts University School of Medicine.
We caught up with Larry to talk trends in drug discovery and how big data will affect the industry. Larry would be the first to tell you that there is a huge amount of available information, but life sciences companies have historically struggled to bring it all together in a meaningful way. This is one of the reasons why Larry is excited about the Relay solutions – Relay may not be the first to aggregate life sciences data streams, but the company is indeed a pioneer in their approach to weighting, prioritizing and trending data for actionable insights, through proprietary algorithms and knowledge, among other things.
One of the reasons why big data, especially in the life sciences industry, has been unruly is because it is not the same for every problem it faces. Each therapeutic area is driven by its own set of unique factors – for example, developing a cardiovascular drug is quite different from developing a drug for autoimmune disorders. Relay’s team was quite aware of this challenge from the get-go – Dave and Brigham, Relay’s co-founders, have deep domain expertise and have created unique ontologies and data prioritization approaches to closely reflect the specificities of each therapeutic area.
The promise of big data, according to Larry, lies in the potential to offer a complete picture of the scientific universe– in both breadth and depth – of possible assets for those in the drug discovery process. This is where the Relay Innovation Engine platform has the potential to transform discovery, eventually reducing and eliminating duplication in efforts and speeding viable asset commercialization. By not only bringing data together, but also allowing life sciences professionals to explore the data for specific insights, Relay can change the way researchers collaborate and share IP, and how pharma and biotech weigh and prioritize assets for their portfolios.
Larry is a man who doesn’t praise easily. He has monitored the evolution of the Relay idea into a complete analytics platform, with the Relay team working with leading scientists and experts, including those from Nature Publishing Group and Attivio, to test and perfect the algorithms behind the trend analytics and asset valuation dashboards.
Understanding and evaluating commercial potential early in the process is not new to the industry. Pharma and biotech companies put a heavy premium on early failures, as fewer than 1 in 10 drugs tested in human clinical trials succeed by the final stages of the process. While the development process will always include a significant element of human judgment, adds Larry, Relay can help decision makers apply a laser-focus on the most viable assets in the initial stages of discovery.
Then there is the potential for a larger network effect that will benefit all stakeholders in the industry. Scientists traditionally have focused on tackling small aspects of the complex riddles in healthcare. Universities and Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs) invest in ground-breaking research that can go unnoticed by their peers, or those in biotechs and pharmas looking for licensing opportunities. By bringing together those disparate pieces of life science research, Relay can help to illuminate the bigger picture – and in turn – benefit the entire scientific community.
When it comes to why Larry chose to help Relay in the first place, he says it is the people behind the venture. He describes the Relay team as a determined, talented group of scientists, who have proven their resolve to address obstacles along the way. It is no surprise to Larry that this team is ready to make its solutions commercially available to the life sciences industry.
We’d like to thank Larry for his time, guidance and powerful insights. For additional perspectives from Relay’s Board of Advisors, review our discussion with Ken Kaitin. And don’t be shy – if you have a pressing question you are trying to address, drop us a line or request to talk to our team. Or share your feedback and ideas with us on Twitter or Facebook.