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06/02/2020 - Press release

The spin-off MedBioinformatics Solutions is born to offer software and consultancy on relationships between genes and diseases

Ten years ago, researchers at Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) and at Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) created a computer platform for collecting highly relevant scientific information that had, until then, been scattered across several sources: relationships between genes and diseases. This open access tool called DisGeNET has become a benchmark in the field of research. From now on, it will also have an industrial application thanks to MedBioinformatics Solutions, a spin-off of IMIM and UPF that is to develop software and consulting services that will bring added value to the information of DisGeNET to help companies develop new products and services.

The company came to life today, 6 February, with the signing of the deeds of incorporation by the acting director of IMIM, Jorge Martínez, the UPF general manager, Jaume Badia; the researchers and partners of the company, Ferran Sanz, Laura Furlong, Janet Piñero and Olga Valverde, and the investor partners: Frederic Abelló and the companies Prous Institute for Biomedical Research and Icrowd+D.

MedBioinformatics Solutions' offer will be based on DisGeNET, a tool developed by the Integrative Biomedical Informatics Group of IMIM and UPF's Research Programme on Biomedical Informatics (GRIB). Through the 600,000 associations between more than 17,000 genes and 24,000 human diseases it has amassed, it is currently "one of the resources to contain the most such information in the world", according to professor Ferran Sanz, a researcher and a founder of the company. Hence, the platform has aroused a great deal of interest in industry: "Companies have been writing to us for some time now to tell us that they would like to use the information in DisGeNET for their R&D", the scientist explains.

To meet this demand, over the coming months MedBioinformatics Solutions will be putting on the market an offer specifically designed for industrial uses: first, software that will enable using the platform's data with the most advanced features and, secondly, it is to offer consultancy services on disease genomics. Meanwhile, DisGeNET will remain an open and accessible resource to the entire scientific community.

UPF has supported the creation of this spin-off in view of its commitment to transferring knowledge and technology to society. It has done so via its transfer office, the Innovation Unit - UPF Business Shuttle, and the innovation management company UPF Ventures, driven and participated in by the University itself. At IMIM, the creation of MedBioinformatics Solutions has been led by the Department of Innovation and Digital Transformation at Mar Health Park (PSMAR).

Signature of the deeds of incorporation. Source IMIM

Valuable information for industry

Finding out the relationship between genes and diseases is very important because it enables finding 'drug targets': most diseases are caused by the abnormal functioning (or the lack) of a protein, and the 'instructions' to build these proteins are contained in the genes. Therefore, knowing which genes are associated with a disease opens the door to interfering with the proteins that cause them: by modifying them, the patient can be cured or their status can be improved. This applies both to diseases whose origin is strictly genetic (cystic fibrosis, for example) and to those in which genetic inheritance predisposes us to suffering them (such as depression or hypertension).

The drivers of the spin-off consider that their offer might help pharmaceutical, biotechnology and health-related companies to develop new treatments or diagnostic procedures, and may also be useful for precision medicine, which develops treatments tailored to the genetics of each patient.

"We have realized that by developing value-added products and services based on DisGeNET we can provide highly valuable solutions to industry", sums up professor Sanz, who believes that the new company will have a competitive advantage in the market: "We will be pioneers with these types of tools and services and we are optimistic because there is a clear demand by companies and other healthcare stakeholders".

Signers. Font IMIM

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