While the response to the COVID-19 pandemic skews the coverage of the pharma sector to diagnostics and vaccines, pharma startups also saw considerable activity in several therapeutic areas. To introduce you to 7 emerging startups founded in 2020, we analyzed 1.745 pharma startups. All of them develop innovative solutions spanning from drug discovery and novel therapeutics to clinical trial management.
The 7 promising pharma startups you should watch in 2021 were hand-picked based on our data-driven startup scouting approach, taking into account factors such as location, founding year, and relevance of technology, among others. The 1.745 companies that were analyzed for this report, are identified using the StartUs Insights Discovery Platform, covering 1.379.000+ startups & scaleups globally. When you are looking for up-to-date pharma solutions for your innovation units, R&D, or product development department, the StartUs Insights Discovery Platform gives you the most exhaustive collection and ensures you continuously discover new startups, scaleups, and technologies.
Global Startup Heat Map: 7 Pharma Startups to Watch in 2021
The Global Startup Heat Map below highlights 7 pharma startups, established in 2020, developing technology-driven solutions for the pharma industry. Moreover, you can explore global hotspots for pharma startups and even download this graphic to include in your next presentation.
PolarisQB – Drug Discovery
The traditional drug development process takes over a decade and billions of dollars to get one drug into the market. Emerging startups are using technologies like deep learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to speed up the search for candidate drugs. Data-driven drug discovery enables efficient parsing through large amounts of biomedical literature and omics data. This informs novel drug design as well as the search for druggable targets for unmet conditions. Additionally, it allows for in-silico testing of new and existing drugs for a range of other conditions.
PolarisQB is a US-based startup that offers drug discovery solutions for precision medicine. The startup’s platform combines quantum computing and AI to search through large and unstructured medical datasets. The platform also uses big data to filter for drug toxicity effects in the process. By searching the novel chemical space faster, PolarisQB aims to bring down the lead time for preclinical drug candidates by an order of magnitude.
Ancora.ai – Clinical Trials
Clinical trials take up considerable time during drug development. Many patients regularly drop out over the course of the clinical trial. Pharma startups also find it difficult to recruit suitable patients for a cohort. On the flip side, patients, particularly those suffering from rare or orphan disease, are frequently unable to find a clinical trial near them. Startups now use AI, analytics, and real-world evidence to encourage patient participation in clinical trials.
Swiss startup Ancora.ai provides a patient-friendly platform for clinical trials. The platform makes it easier for patients to discover clinical trials for a range of conditions in their vicinity. The solution offers data privacy, including the right to be forgotten. Additionally, once a patient is enrolled, the platform tracks progress and provides support and information. Ancora.ai’s platform is HIPAA and GDPR compliant.
ANA Therapeutics – COVID-19
Any list of innovations in 2020 is incomplete without the mention of the year’s greatest challenge – the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. First, pharma companies stood up to the task and developed many rapid testing kits, including antibody-based tests. Now, there is a race underway to bring a COVID-19 vaccine to the market. Both Moderna and Pfizer have announced promising results for mRNA-based vaccines. Additionally, startups are working on developing approaches to formulating treatments and vaccines to facilitate a return to the normal.
ANA Therapeutics is a US-based startup founded to develop a treatment for COVID-19. The startup is investigating niclosamide, a drug used for the treatment of tapeworm infestations. ANA001, the startup’s repurposed drug, is undergoing phase 2 clinical trials. In the treatment of COVID-19, early results indicate that the drug exhibits both antiviral and anti-inflammatory activity.
Pulmobiotics – Vaccines
The coronavirus pandemic highlights the pressing need for developing vaccines for infectious diseases. With gene editing, startups now offer whole-cell vaccines that present specific antigens for effective immunotherapy. New technologies for delivery, as well as new platforms such as exosomes or virosomes, ensure that the vaccines work at a precise target, minimizing side effects. Pharma startups are also developing efficient cold-chains to ensure vaccines reach people in even the remotest regions.
Spanish startup Pulmobiotics develops vaccines for respiratory diseases. The startup’s proprietary platform combines microbial engineering and synthetic biology. The platform uses attenuated bacteria to deliver antigens or therapeutic agents to the lung. The bacteria release the antigen or the therapeutic in a specific region in a controlled and continuous manner. Pulmobiotics is working on vaccines for both lung cancers and infectious diseases.
MRM Health – Microbiome-based Therapeutics
Multiple studies demonstrate the link between the gut microbiome and the development of many diseases. These include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), type 2 diabetes, autism spectrum disorder, and chronic diseases. Pharma startups are working on therapies that correct the microbiome composition to reverse the disease state. These live biotherapeutics contain living microbes, engineered or otherwise, that prevent, treat, or cure a medical condition.
MRM Health is a Belgian startup that discovers and develops human microbiome-based therapeutics. At the core of the startup’s activities is the Simulator of the Human Intestinal Microbial Ecosystem (SHIME). The platform models the human gut, providing valuable insights into intestinal processes. This data then allows MRM Health to study the intake of pharmaceuticals in the human gut. The startup’s pipeline includes biotherapeutics for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), ulcerative colitis, spondyloarthritis, and metabolic diseases.
Evora Biosciences – Regenerative Cell Therapy
As gene editing becomes easier and more inexpensive to perform, pharma startups are developing precise autologous cell therapies. For conditions like hematological malignancies, pharma startups offer off-the-shelf cell therapies that have little to no immune response. Increased understanding of stem cell differentiation is also enabling the growth of startups offering regenerative cell therapy. These therapies are particularly beneficial for patients with aging-related disorders and autoimmune conditions.
French startup Evora Biosciences offers next-generation cell therapies. The startup uses stem-cell-derived exosomes to replicate the regenerative potential of stem cells. However, unlike stem cell therapies, exosomes offer a simpler and more cost-efficient alternative. EVOGEX, Evora Biosciences’ lead product, promotes the healing of the digestive fistula. This leads to improvements in patient outcomes in gastrointestinal indications.
ROME Therapeutics – Omics Technologies
The 21st century has changed how companies in the pharma, as well as other life sciences sectors, operate. Much of this has been due to an explosion in omics technologies, namely genomics, proteomics, and transcriptomics, to name a few. By bringing human genomics to the clinics, startups are solutions in enabling precision medicine and preventive healthcare. Pharma startups routinely employ proteomics and transcriptomics to discover novel druggable targets. Many more omics technologies are still in their infancy and are set to impact the pharma sector for years to come.
ROME Therapeutics is a US-based startup that develops novel therapies for autoimmune disorders and cancers. The startup leverages new insights about the repeatome, the repetitive sequences that comprise a large part of the human genome. Combining methods from oncology, immunology, and machine learning, the startup is investigating multiple promising drug targets. The startup’s therapeutics further seek to drive the most persistent cancers and autoimmune disorders into sustained remission.
What does 2021 bring for the Pharma Industry?
To stay ahead of the technology curve, it is important that you know which technologies and industry trends will impact your company in 2021. You can explore our report on the Top 10 Pharma Industry Trends or let us do the work for you. To keep you up-to-date on the latest technology and emerging solutions, we provide you with actionable innovation intelligence – quickly and exhaustively.