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Mitra Biotech prescribes the perfect cancer drugs using data analytics

Shubhra Rishi | April 16, 2014
A technology platform that uses data analytics allows Mitra Biotech to find the most effective cancer drug for specific patients in seven days--exponentially faster than traditional methods.

Executive summary

A technology platform that uses data analytics allows Mitra Biotech to find the most effective cancer drug for specific patients in seven days — exponentially faster than traditional methods.

Ask any child what the largest mammal in the world is and you'll probably be told it's the blue whale. At 30 meters and weighing over 170 tons, the child wouldn't be wrong. Its size, however, isn't the only thing that makes blue whales special.

It is also more likely, given its size, to get cancer compared to any other mammal. In the words of author Carl Zimmer, "Strictly speaking, there should be no blue whales."

And yet, they live.

In fact, blue whales can live for over a century. The longest living blue whale has flipped its large fins for 114 years. Scientists believe that they possess a natural mechanism that suppresses cancer that's a 1,000 times effective than humans.

Humans can be affected by over 100 types of cancer. According to the World Health Organization, cancer causes close to 500,000 deaths in India every year, and by 2017, that number will rise to 700,000.

High treatment costs is one of the big challenges to beating cancer. Slow, inaccurate treatment is another. Here's the dark truth about cancer treatment: Choosing the right treatment involves some amount of guesswork. While selecting which type of chemotherapy to use, doctors rely heavily on experience and information available from historical data. Despite advances in science, finding the right drug is often a matter of trial-and-error.

One company plans on changing that.

Early Symptoms

Founded in 2009 by three Indian scientists, Dr. Mallik Sundaram, Dr. Pradip Majumder, and Dr. Shiladitya Sengupta, Mitra Biotech is a personalized cancer biology company headquartered in India. Mitra Biotech has gotten media attention thanks to its technology that offers a way to drastically reduce the guesswork around cancer medication — and speed up the process of figuring out the right medicine. It's on Fast Company's list of the 10 most innovative companies, "for rethinking conventional cancer drug therapies by applying data analytics."

Before they launched Mitra Biotech, the three scientists ran a company in the US known as Mitra Life Sciences. Among his other accomplishments, Dr. Sundaram, an alumni of IIT-Varanasi, taught at MIT, Cambridge, MA, training students in the area of complex analytics and cancer biology. He also co-founded Momenta Pharmaceuticals and developed an FDA-approved, generic drug known as M-Enoxaparin. In 2010, the first year of approval, M-Enoxaparin brought 60 percent of the $4.5 billion global sales to Momenta and its partner Novartis.

Dr. Majumder developed and steered two anti-cancer drugs from laboratory to Phase 2 of clinical trials in the US. He was also a professor of oncology at Harvard Medical School. And Dr. Sengupta is an assistant professor at Brigham and Women's hospital at Harvard University. In addition to Mitra, he has co-founded Cerulean Pharma (US), Vyome Biosciences (India) and Invictus Oncology (India).


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