The Hive Program: Scientific Support for Early-Stage Biotech Companies

By Leah Cannon, Ph.D.

Elsevier R&D Solutions provides scientific databases and other resources that help scientists access information and collaborate with experts throughout the drug discovery and development process. They are launching the Hive Project in September 2016 which offers five early-stage biotech companies free access to a range of Elsevier’s products. I sat down with Christy Wilson, Senior Director of the Pharma and Biotech Segment of Elsevier R&D Solutions to get more information about the Hive Project.

Why did you decide to launch the Hive Project?

Our wider mission at Elsevier R&D Solutions is to support the scientific discovery that drives innovation and ultimately improves patient care and outcomes. Pharmaceutical companies source more than 50 percent of their pipeline candidates externally. Small pharmaceutical and biotech companies are doing the heavy lifting of discovery. We want to empower small companies to problem solve and overcome hurdles during drug discovery.

How does the Hive Project work?

We offer a portfolio of seven solutions to participating companies to facilitate target identification and validation and small molecule optimization. These solutions help scientists to make informed decisions during their pre-clinical and clinical development.

Pathway Studio is a searchable database of molecular cell interactions including gene and protein expression, metabolomic data and disease mechanisms. Scientists can use this tool to answer questions like which proteins might be functionally-related to a candidate biomarker or how a mutation might affect metabolism of a drug candidate.

Reaxys is a database of over 500 million chemical structures, properties and reactions that allows scientists to find out if their compound of interest already exists, how to synthesize or obtain a particular compound and who else is working on it.

Reaxys Medicinal Chemistry contains comprehensive pharmacokinetic, efficacy, toxicity, safety and metabolic data that shows which compounds interact with a target of interest, how similar compounds behave and helps you to work out which of your drug candidates has the highest chance of success.

PharmaPendium has searchable FDA and EMA drug approval documents so scientists can find safety, efficacy and DMPK data to optimize their pre-clinical and clinical development, as well as support their regulatory applications.

Embase and Scopus are databases that abstract and index published literature as well as conference abstracts and in-press publications. Embase provides deep indexing of the biomedical literature, including some content not found in PubMed. Scopus focuses on a broader scientific, technical and medical content set, along with tools to track and analyze trends, and to identify key opinion leaders and current experts.

ScienceDirect provides full-text access to the journal and book content published by Elsevier, including that of its society partners.

We train all participants in the Hive Project on how to get the most value from each of these resources. Feedback from scientists is that these tools mean that they don’t have to spend as much time researching background information and so they can move their science forward more quickly.

Why did you make the Hive Project virtual?

We are a global organization, so we decided to do this virtually. We have five participating companies in various geographical locations. We wanted to have a good mix of companies from different parts of the industry, different stages of drug development and different regions around the world. The Hive Project is a program for early-stage companies but it is not a classic incubator like JLabs where a lot of companies work together in the same space.

Could a company be part of the Hive Project and be simultaneously part of an incubator like JLabs?

Yes, we encourage our participants to leverage both types of programs. At least one of our initial five companies has also joined an incubator.

How many companies can you support?

We are starting with five companies. This project could evolve in a number of different directions. We will learn as we go along and will make decisions based on the experiences of the first five companies.

Do the participating companies have to pay a subscription or other fee to be part of the project?

No. They have complimentary to all the resources that I mentioned for a one-year period.

What sort of companies are you looking for?

Companies who are focused on therapeutics. We want to involve companies from different therapy areas, at different maturity in terms of the discovery pipeline and from different geographies. It is a commitment to partner with us on this project as you have to learn how to use the solutions and we will be chronicling your story, so applicants should be prepared to commit to this for one year.

How should interested companies apply?

We have our initial five companies already chosen for this year. If people are interested in applying next year, they should go to the Hive website and register to follow the Hive. That way they can get a better sense of the experience of the companies who are part of the initial round and can be alerted when we begin accepting additional applicants. We will open a second application process next year. This will involve an online questionnaire and a follow-up interview for short-listed candidates.

Can you offer anything to companies who aren’t part of the Hive?

All of the solutions that are part of the Hive Project are available to other companies under various business models.

A great free-to-use resource is Elsevier Connect – it’s an online platform of daily stories for the global science, health and technology communities. The topics covered encompass everything from scientific research trends, to tips on how to get published or to get funding for your work.

Do you have any other projects like the Hive that support young scientists?

We also run the Reaxys PhD Prize. It is open to chemists who have conducted original, innovative research in synthetic chemistry as part of their PhD. Finalists are awarded lifelong membership to the Reaxys Prize Club, an international network of chemists from all research areas and career paths, unlimited access to the Reaxys and Reaxys Medicinal Chemistry databases, and are given a bursary and paid accommodation to attend the Reaxys PhD Prize Symposium in London. Three winners are chosen from the finalists and also receive $2,000 each.

Anyone can register their interest for the 2017 Reaxys PhD Prize here.

If your company has an innovative program to help scientists and you would like to be featured on the Life Science Network, please contact Leah at lcannon@lifesciencenetwork.com.