Bath-based businesses collaborate on life-saving database

Interview: The team at Bath-based CiteAb on their collaboration with web agency Storm to build the world's largest citation-ranked antibody search engine
19th December 2017

Hunting for cures for the world’s diseases is a tough job, often involving testing hundreds, if not thousands, of different antibodies on deadly bacteria.

For scientists, this is one of the biggest bugbears. The search for the correct antibody costs valuable time and money and regularly falls short of expectations.

“It’s amazing to know we’re doing a small part to help global research”

 

However, for Dr Andrew Chalmers (pictured right), a senior lecturer in the Department of Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Bath, the solution was clear. He created CiteAb – a citation-ranked antibody search engine – to allow scientists to search for the most likely solutions in seconds.

Four years on and with investment and collaborative technical assistant from Bath-based award-winning web design and development agency Storm Consultancy, CiteAb is now the largest citation-ranked antibody search engine in existence and are expanding still to include more than just antibodies (and possibly some additional teammates too).

Keen to find out more about how CiteAb has positively disrupted the research industry and how they have achieved such a high success rate, we had a chat with the team themselves.

TechSPARK: What is CiteAb in a nutshell?

CiteAb is one of the world’s largest life-science data providers. It focuses on providing high-quality data to both researchers and life science companies, saving the industry an estimated $1bn a year.

TS: How did it get started?

The team at digital technology agency Storm Consultancy invested in the idea whilst it was still the brainchild of Dr Andrew Chalmers, an academic at the University of Bath.

Between Andrew and Storm’s CEO David Kelly, they spotted that CiteAb had huge potential and so the business was spun out from the University. It was the first deal of its kind involving a purely web-based spin-out company.

TS: Why is what you do important?

Researchers and life science companies lose a huge amount of time and money – around $1bn a year as mentioned earlier – through a combination of utilising incorrect or incomplete information in their research and business processes.

“Storm Consultancy was instrumental in turning an academic idea into a now highly successful and profitable business”

 

Historically, researchers would waste time and money using products that don’t work and organisations make multi-million-pound strategic business decisions based on little more than survey information. That’s now solved thanks to CiteAb.

TS: What are the CiteAb team most proud of?

We know that a good chunk of the time and money that is being saved, especially by academic researchers, goes back into research relating to topics such as cancer and other life-changing illnesses. It’s amazing to know we’re doing a small part to help global research.

TS: Tell us more about your collaboration with other local companies.

The team at Storm Consultancy was instrumental in turning an academic idea into a now highly successful and profitable business. As a digital technology agency, they partner with businesses to build digital products and services and they have an impressive set of successful digital and tech businesses under their belt.

“If you’ve got a background in biology or in computer science, we’d love to hear from you”

 

We were especially impressed by the blend of technical capability, creative, UX, business and startup experience that they bring to the table. Storm don’t invest in every business they work with, but in our case that closer partnership made sense and we’re delighted to have them as part of the team.

The University of Bath also clearly played a big part in getting the business off the ground in the early days, especially the Research and Innovation Services Department and the Department of Biology and Biochemistry.

TS: How can people get involved with CiteAb?

The CiteAb team grew by almost 50% this year as we added to both our technical development team and our product management team.

In addition we have a network of data scientists and reviewers, all of whom have a strong biology background. Ultimately if you’ve got a background in biology or in computer science, we’d love to hear from you as the growth plans for 2018 are ambitious.

TS: What’s next for CiteAb?

The additions to our technical development team, as well as having Storm CTO Adam Pope acting as a part-time CTO to CiteAb, means we’ve been able to really ramp up the technical pace of the business.

We’ve been expanding the range of our services capabilities to cover everything from antibodies to lipids, small molecules to scientific machinery, and much more. 2018 will see us continue this development into even more scientific areas so that we can help even more researchers!

Find out more about the antibody search engine by checking out the CiteAb website. If you’re interested in Storm’s web skills, head over to the Storm Consultancy website. You can also follow both teams on Twitter here: @CiteAb and @stormUK.