Kevin Lustig Assay Depot

We built Assay Depot about five years ago. So I'd have to say compared to PeerJ we're a little long in the tooth so to speak. We're still a startup in many ways. We're a virtual company based out in San Diego. We have been quietly for five years building web based tools for scientists with the sole goal of empowering laboratory scientists.

We have been focusing on two classes of scientists, no value judgement implied. We want to include citizen scientists and academic scientists. But also pharmaceutical scientists. They involve a similar product. If we're talking about citizen scientist, the problem is that- if you are interested in doing life science research- at some point, big data or not, you need to do laboratory experiments. Lab experiments are incredibly expensive- expensive equipment, experts for setting up the study or analyzing it, or they involve some sort of tracking or project management tool. Your average citizen scientist does not have access to those capabilities.

So Assay Depot built a public web-based laboratory. We want to tap into the collective latent scientific talent that is outside of professional science. It allows any citizen scientist with appropriate funding to translate their ideas into experiments and into action in a nutshell. So at one place, located at you can search for services, you can communicate with experts, you can raise services, you can track eerything that you're doing.

We enable online access to over 20,000 online laboratories. You can go to our website, search through our taxonomy, and you might find things like a book on Amazon. So antibodies put in prices and turn around times. If you click the title of these services, you can get into the actual science going on. You can read the science that the vendor has put in. You can fully put in the.. vendor can go in and continually update their research so scientists can have access to new research as they are created. It's really become that simple.

You can notice that the orange button says request info, you can click that and establish a dialog with this particular vendor. It's like skype chat where you actually communicate back and forth. In our database we have 6,000 research providers including CROs and consultants, core labs at universities that Elizabeth was referring to. We've divided the life science process, focusing primarily on drug discovery, into 550 different areas. It's very simple to go to the site, browse through the taxonomy, click on any link, and see a list of every vendor in the world that offers services in that category.

You can request quotes, transfer files, see bids, all in that one simple page. This is a pharmacology page, there's in vitro technology, infectious diseases, click on any one of these links and you will see every vendor that we have identified or they hvae self-identified for that particular category. On the lower left is inflammation model, let's say I've done some research, but I need an arthritis model.. what do I do today? Well, you can just go here and click on my arthritis link where you can see the 75 vendors in the world that offer these. You can reach out and contact them or all 75 at once. It's not an ecommerce fashion, you can ask questions and establish a dialog with any of these vendors simultaneously.

You can reply to 50 people at the same time to tell them that you're not interested. You can simply go in and search Alzheimer's disease, maybe you have an iddea. Instead of looking for an academic partner, maybe you can go in and pay $5k and $10k which is not a trivial thing, but you could get a disease model carried out for you. I should have mentioned that it is completely absolutely free, there's no charge for scientists to use this platform. We fund it through a different mechanism.

Citizen scientists can now run any drug discovery experimetns, wyou have immediate access to services, and if it's not one of the twenty thousand already listed, you can already create services that aren't listed. We have thousands of users in over 50 different countries, we have 10k uniques per month- it's not that much, but it's increasing. We receive more than 1000 requests/month that comes through the system. We have processed over 16000 requests most of that coming in the past 2 years. In the first 2 years of the project, there was no market and it was low key, so we were just growing it organically.

We have over 6000 suppliers including consultants, over 1000 have come to our member portal or expert are actually using this system. We have had 1200 vendors come into the system over the last 18 months. Atul Butte left a comment.

So how is the platform used by the pharmaceutical industry? They are in dire straights. It's imploding in slow motion. The problem is obviously very different. The industry is spending $100B per year doing research. They have access to equipment and experts. What's the problem? They are not very good at it. Their revenues are going down and their costs are going up and their success rate is going down. Nobody knows what is going to happen. The industry is going to look dramatically different in the next 5 to 10 years. You need to promote innovation.

You need to come up with a way that can dramatically cut costs while improving clinical success rate. It's usually the other way- spend more money to get more. Somehow we need to solve this as a paradoxical effect. Our solution has been to take the public web based lab, for use by anyone, that we have availabel for free of charge, and turn it into an enterprise solution for pharma companies. So we have private web based labs for pfizer, johnson and others, and these companies are using this platform- 10,000 scientists within each company to coordinate all of their research activities. To searching assays; making compounds, compounds making animal models, and even post consumer work is getting done in this site. And this software is identical, it's competitive, everyone has to have the same platform.

The pharmaceutical companies fund the public side, and all of those improvements go out to the public and all the other private sites that we run. The big advantage of a giant private web-based lab is that you can, for the first time, begin to collect institutional knowledge. The industry has laid off over 300,000 people over the last 10 years. That's a tremendous amount of knowledge that will never be seen again.

It's not used just by external vendors of 6000 ro 10000, but a pharma company has several hundred core labs within their company. We have one place where a scientist can go to get access to any internal or external service, to get any information that people have put in about those services. There are also issues about compliance and verification that they are very sensitive about.

So by capturing institution, I mean, here are four anonymized vendors from one of the private vendors.. these are some vendor ratings, the average of the indiviual service ratings. You can put badges to correspond to filters on the search pages, the most important one on pharma industry is MSA or Mass and Services Agreements. What's the current legal agreement with that vendor? You can go into this site, you touch the antibody link, and there's 750 vendors in that space. The MSA badge will show you the 5 that have existing legal agreements with Pfizer for instance. Then they can just add it to their cart, and order their service in about 5 minutes, what used to take several months to accomplish.

As you might imagine, we have an API. We will be making it public fairly soon. This API is enabling us to connect all the IT systems that are established in the pharma industry. You have legal databases, financial databases, etc., we linked those IT solutions, we pull data and push data, and it's really easy for scientists to get things done with minimal friction. We hook into their compound database, and we check if that compound is available in the pharmaceutical library, or we send a note to say send 10 mg of this compound to these 5 addresses, whatever it is that eeds to be done.

We have also done financial systems that allows on-demand ordering with going through traditional compliance checks. These private web-based labs, we hope, we think, the evidencei s accumulating that we're fixing the old way of drug discovery, all research work was within the company's laboratory in NJ or Pennsylvania. That's ailed miserably. The entire idnustry is moving to the network model, a FIPNET not FIPCO. Where you are workign with thousands of science providers every year.

When people ask me what tstrikes me most about the platform, it's that it's incredibly enabling and empowering. I can say with no exaggeration that one very talented person can run an entire drug discovery program from concept all the way to human clinical trials using our public marketplace. The bottom line is that at Assay Depot that only by empowering both citizen scientists and professional scientists, and get them to work togetehr in ways that never happened before, we can address the world's problems.

One more slide on the lessons on building a startup. What did we learn? The first is that, simpler is often better when you are talking about software. We had a tednency in those first years to add features, do some polls, find out what they want, add those features.. that's the wrong way to do this. You have to be focused on removing components. Get that minimum.

Secondly we built this company without VC funding. The last company I founded in 2001 I raised $170 million. It was a terrible idea. We were well-paid. But it came back to bite us in the ass. Good luck. What we've done is that we've gone out and raised money from friends and family. I got my mother to kick in some money. It puts pressure on you when your mother puts in money. We are profitable as of this year. It's only now that we're going to go out and actually raise VC money, but instead of giving up 70% of the company like in my first go, we're going to give up 10% or 20% this time to maintain control.

I think it's really difficult to get users. My recommendation to startupsi s to take that into account now. Good luck to everyone who is starting up.

$250,000/license for pharma companies and charge through in the nose for integrations

incentivize open science by charging private companies, then open access gets it for free.. share their ratings on their public site. Share and anonymize ratings in the public marketplace.