NI start-up Overwatch Research raises $3.5m for US expansion

Company has developed a platform for the collection of data used in preclinical trials

Overwatch founders Graham Wilsdon, Chris Armstrong and Paul Wilsdon

Overwatch founders Graham Wilsdon, Chris Armstrong and Paul Wilsdon

 

Belfast-based Overwatch Research, which has developed management software used in preclinical trials, has raised $3.5 million (€3 million) from investors.

The company intends to use the financing to fuel its expansion in the US where it is looking to meet demand for improved laboratory research processes. It is also intending to create 18 new jobs.

Overwatch was founded by Dr Chris Armstrong, Paul Wilsdon and Graham Wilsdon in 2017 after they became frustrated with archaic methods of study and data management used during preclinical drug development. It is estimated that such methods cost the pharma sector $2 billion a year.

Platform

The company addresses ongoing issues with the development drug process through its proprietary platform which helps to combat problems such as transcription errors and loss of data. The software encompasses preclinical research workflows for study design, data collection, analysis, and reporting.

Clients using the platform include Lyell Immunopharm, a San Francisco-based biotech company that develops cellular therapies used in the treatment of cancers.

“Preclinical drug development is at the cutting edge of science yet desperately in need of technology labs are still reliant on paper- based notebooks and spreadsheets which is a major cause of error contributing to the reproducibility crisis,” said Dr Armstrong.

“We envision a future where the pharmaceutical industry can more easily identify drugs which will succeed at clinical trials through the tools and operational rigor that Overwatch provides. With better data collection and analysis capabilities, scientists can save time, reduce error and increase collaboration -leading to faster drug development and less wasted effort and spend,” he added.

Funding

The seed funding round was led by Dublin and London-based Frontline Ventures. Other prominent investors include SV Angel, Flatiron Health co-founder Zach Weinberg, the Parker Institute for Cancer immunology co-founder Michael Polansky, and Robert Fenton, chief executive of Irish-founded Qualio, which itself raised $50 million earlier this year.

“We need better therapies and drugs coming to market and solving the issue of reproducibility at the preclinical phase is a key part of making that happen. Overwatch is one of the most mission driven companies we’ve had the opportunity to partner with and we’re proud they are bringing us along for the journey,” said Finn Murphy, an investor at Frontline Ventures.