Welcome back to The Collider Blog, where we bring this time a personal story of research, coding, health and the hill up -and down- to entrepreneurship.
Right in the middle of our office in Barcelona Tech City, there is a row of quiet men surrounded by screens and immersed beyond their headphones. They are PhDs, computational chemists and engineers. Their goal: designing the best computational drug discovery platform in the market based on Quantum-Mechanics algorithms and machine learning. Their collective name: Pharmacelera, a company under The Collider’s portfolio since December 2016.
As the veterans in the office, they have seen quite a few startups come and go. But how did they get here and what is keeping them focused and resisting the assaults of entrepreneurship after the dreadful three-year threshold? At the beginning of this story we have two guys, colleagues and namesakes, who decided, out of the blue and with no previous experience, to become entrepreneurs.
Enric Gibert and Enric Herrero belong to two succeeding generations of computational PhDs at the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya who joined the Intel R+D center in Barcelona. After a few years holding roles escalating from senior researcher to group leader, the center closed and Enric Gibert was particularly left with a tough decision to make. Either he accepted Intel’s offer to move to Silicon Valley (bringing along wife and two daughters) or started a new venture with his colleague Enric Herrero, who was already exploring the field of genomics.
And this is how this story of entrepreneurship kick started. With two young engineers standing in Barcelona’s central Saint Jaime’s square awaiting the first of many meetings with Manel López, a renowned computational chemist from Almirall, acquainted by chance, who would offer essential direction and contacts. Flash-forward a few months and both Enrics were validating their proof-of-concept with professor Javier Luque, a key cornerstone for the company from this time onwards and current Chief Scientific Officer.
The following months – and years- went by developing the platform, building the business structure and seeking partnerships. The first major decision for both founders was to split tasks, with Enric Gibert taking the CEO position and Enric Herrero becoming the CTO. This proved to be a smart choice although Enric Gibert admits to missing the coding bit every once in a while. With the help of their network, a lot of Googling and cold-calling, the company achieved its first major success at the turn of early 2017 with its first round of investment, first client and entering The Collider.
Since then, Pharmacelera has strengthen their commercial efforts and secured important clients such as their recent agreement with the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), the second-best European research institution in oncology based on Nature Index. In the long-term, their goal would be to draw a deal with a big pharmaceutical company (and they have already a few undisclosable meetings scheduled on that pursuit).
When reviewing the long way back, Enric Gibert admits to having taken much longer to set up compared to their early inexperienced forecasts. However, both founders are persistent and the technical, strategic, funding and commercial milestones make them optimistic about the potential growth of the company, given the big opportunities in drug discovery for disruptive technologies.
As Parmacelera moves on from startup to SME, only time can tell which will be its next big success. We will follow them closely and make sure to keep our followers posted!