Advancing health and patient care via drug data and knowledge 


Undergraduate project spawns new tech startup
What began as a University of Alberta undergraduate bioinformatics is now the world's largest pharmaceutical knowledge database and one of Edmonton's fastest growing tech startups called Drugbank. The project was to build an online tool for academics and researchers, to provide free, quick, easy access to consolidated drug and molecular data. While still an academic project, the Drugbank database spread like wildfire, attracting the attention of many pharmaceutical companies. Seeing the commercial potential, the two former undergraduates Craig Knox and Mike Wilson, spun it off in 2015. Today, DrugBank’s free and commercial offerings are used by millions globally, from university researchers and students, to pharmacists, doctors, nurses, the public, large and small pharmaceutical companies, and health information and medical software companies.  

Enabling + advancing patient care, drug discovery and repurposing
Drugbank’s name sums up its value proposition—the world’s pharmaceutical knowledge banked in one place. A one stop shop for current scientific and clinical data, curated pharmacological, pharmaceutical and chemical data, information on approved drugs, investigational drugs and drug targets, and drugs in early research, clinical trials and approvals. The platform also offers drug-drug interactions and contraindication alerts.

The database is used by thousands of scientists to discover new drugs, analyze drugs, repurpose drugs and build predictive models. The end result is lower drug R&D time and cost, and helps make new and repurposed medicines available sooner. Drugbank also provides health providers, pharmacists, caregivers, nurses and the public with fast, easy and reliable drug information, enabling data-driven health/medical decision making. The result—helps save lives and improve patient care and health outcomes.

Drugbank’s ultimate goals are to enable major medical advancements, use artificial intelligence for drug discovery and repurposing, and power clinical solutions such as eMedical records software, precision medicine, digital health and telemedicine. As health and medicine becomes increasingly data driven and digital health and precision medicine grow, so too will resources like Drugbank.

Still supporting academic research + public access
For Drugbank, supporting academic research and student education remains core. They continue to offer free, non-commercial datasets to academic researchers, and a free version of DrugBank with detailed information on many topics including pharmacology, chemical structures, targets and toxicology.

Successes and future plans
In its first five years, Drugbank grew from 2 to 43 employees and increased revenue 300%. Now they are moving from startup to scaleup. In 2020, they completed an early-stage venture capital raise, grew annual recurring revenue 40% per quarter, exceeded sales targets, closed two major partnership deals, completed a major machine-learning project, and developed an ambitious long-term corporate strategy. Now Drugbank has the clinical health software space in its sights. In the next two years, Drugbank expects to increase annual revenue by 400% and their team by 300%. A key part of this growth strategy is leveraging Edmonton's pharmaceutical sciences, pharmacology, computing science, and AI talent.