Belfast Telegraph

DNA experts boost war on cancer with £200k US deal

By Margaret Canning

A pharma entrepreneur from Co Down has won £200,000 in business from the US after taking part in a trade mission.

Exploristics employs five people in the analysis of data relating to drug trials and treatments - including developing a model of blood sampling to identify early signs of pancreatic cancer.

Its statisticians also study DNA to see if any variation in it can account for why certain people respond differently to drug treatments.

Dr Aiden Flynn set up Exploristics after working for a decade for drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

He said his experience had led him to believe that the potential of data analysis wasn't being fully explored. "I could see where there were some really good opportunities because companies were generating immense amounts of data in research programmes and clinical trials."

Most of Exploristics' work is from overseas. The company was offered £27,000 by Invest NI to look at opportunities in the US, resulting in deals with Amgen, Eli Lilly, GSK, Actelion and other firms.

But the 42-year-old has spotted other potential business areas. "The pharma-industry isn't alone in generating huge amounts of data," he said.

"As we identify risks relating to a patients taking a drug, you could equally identify the risks involved in giving someone a bank loan.

"We are just continuing to develop pharma for the moment and are doing so with the support of Invest NI but will branch out at end of 2013 to 2014."

He cited the example of a predictive model which was sought by Horse Racing Ireland to identify the people more likely to attend their events, and who could therefore be targeted with marketing materials.

Dr Flynn, who is originally from Drumaness, Co Down, studied maths and physics at Queen's. He then obtained a Masters in medical physics at Surrey University, a PhD in biophysics at University College London and lectured for a number of years before joining GlaxoSmithKline.

He said Northern Ireland was an "extremely competitive" location for his business. "In some ways it might have been a lot more convenient to me to set up in London but to have a business like this in London would be extremely expensive. But here in Northern Ireland we have a well-educated people with a great attitude and a great ethic."

Exploristics recently joined a joint Department of Health and Invest NI 'connected health' trade mission to the US.

Invest NI trade director Dr Vicky Kell said: "Assisting the development of companies in life sciences is an important focus for us and we work very closely with companies on initiatives including participation in exhibitions in the US, Asia and the Middle East."