Art & Science – the Pistoia Alliance, Dragons Den- an opportunity to showcase a new app

What do David Hockney and I have in common? Not much except he is pushing the boundaries and creating great art with an iPad and well I am trying to use an iPad to do drug discovery, pushing a different kind of boundary. I had chance to see his exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts today and I was very impressed. Then I gave my first Dragon’s Den presentation using an iPad at the Royal Society of Chemistry (next door to the Royal Academy of Arts), with a few of the brainstorming slides shared previously, followed by a demo of the prototype open drug discovery dream teams ODDITY App , which Alex Clark created from the idea in about a week. So it was a two minute fast sell. A lot of fun! We had a good audience consisting of ~ 50-60 pharma, hardware, software, VC funders, etc..and great questions. I did not win (congratulations Ramesh and Ingrid) but I gained a lot of funny money, probably more than it would take to develop the app! So what did I not have chance to articulate clearly (obviously)- the value proposition. If I had to do it all again I would just show the prototype App, how it could deal with the data deluge problem.   Finally I would have showed the slides of what it would do when finished and how it could potentially bring scientists together, or at least allow drug companies and patients a fast way to figure out what and who to connect with for a disease or topic of interest. Then there are the potential what ifs..well what if you used it for something other than drug discovery research etc? hmm..Simplify finding the content that really interests you in some other scientific area, say green chemistry.

If you had asked me in Dec 2011 that I would have given a talk and demo on an iPad for a new prototype App designed from an idea in a week or so, I would have laughed. Perhaps this will be the first of more presentations on the device.

So big thank you’s to Alex and also the Pistoia Alliance for making it happen and the opportunity to come up with an idea. Will keep you posted on what happens next. But here are some more slides that show a little more detail. I would like to thank Jill Wood, Founder of Jonah’s Just Begun, who kindly allowed use of their logo as a way to highlight how the app could be used to find information on rare diseases like San Filippo. If the future of science is truly more open and collaborative, patients should be able to find out more readily about the status of research on their disease.

As I walked back to the hotel I passed an Aston Martin and a small electric car side by side.

For me it was symbolic of the opportunity that faces us in pharmaceutical research, go fast or go far. The big fish and small fry have to work together. The Pistoia Alliance provides an excellent opportunity for companies of all sizes interested in lowering the  barriers to innovation and collaboration for the informatics field. The small apps may yet help save the day.


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  1. greta beekhuis says:

    I am involved in just this kind of rare disease research….this is SO exciting, Sean!
    A mutual friend, MWaters recommends you highly. Would you be so kind as to email me?

  2. Deborah Ausman says:

    Sean, thanks so much for the presentation and partiuclarly the innovative delivery. Death By iPad is much more pleasant than Death By PPT.

    Also, as promised, here’s the link to the silly video that reminds me of your dragon. Hope it at least brings a giggle.

    Strong Bad – TROGDOR by thecowboy555

  1. Dragons’ Den Roars at Royal Society of Chemistry | INSIGHTS from Pistoia Alliance says:

    […] Death by iPad ≠ Death by PPT. Sean Ekins sketched his entire presentation on an iPad, and while a lack of WiFi meant he wasn’t able to access his “prototype’s” data, the whimsical, off-the-cuff quality of the presentation puts a few more nails in PPT’s coffin. Sean posted his slides on Slideshare, and blogged about his experiences in the Dragons’ Den here and here. […]

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