OTC News Archive

Professor hatches company for his drug-delivery software

By Tim Green, UT Office of Public Affairs
September 2003

The process of developing new drugs can be long and expensive. Optive Research Inc. aims to make the search faster and more efficient with software that helps researchers decide which compounds to synthesize and test in finding new drugs.

Dr. Robert Pearlman, a University of Texas at Austin professor who developed the computer-aided drug-discovery software, worked with the Office of Technology Commercialization to create Optive to sell the technology that he developed in his UT lab. At the university, Pearlman is the Coulter R. Sublett Regents Chair in Pharmacy and the Director of the Laboratory for the Development of Computer-Assisted Drug Discovery Software. At Optive, he’s president and chief scientific officer.

Previously, the university licensed the technology to Tripos Inc., a life science company based in St. Louis. It was the second most lucrative of the university’s licensing agreements, bringing in $1.8 million in just the past two years.

Now Optive will handle the Tripos licensing (and continue to split it with the university), sell its own products (sending a share of those revenues to the university) and accelerate development of the software. “Operating as a company rather than as an academic lab, we are now positioned to provide a much higher level of support, service, and software R&D to these scientists, their companies, and to the rest of the molecular discovery community,” Pearlman said.

Pearlman said that as a commercial entity Optive can afford to attract top-level researchers and funding to further development. The company has 15 employees and more than 15 products to be used by computational chemists and bench chemists who are engaged in molecular design and discovery research.

Pearlman and Dr. Neil Iscoe, director of the UT Office of Technology Commercialization, hope Optive’s influence extends beyond its own future. “The company creates jobs,” Iscoe said. “But it also highlights the growing cadre of biotechnology and life science companies in the Austin area.”