University spinout wins at Bath Business Awards

University of Bath spinout company CiteAb has been selected as the most ‘Innovative Startup Business of the Year’ in the 2014 Bath Business Awards.

CiteAb is an antibody search engine which allows scientific researchers to search for antibodies to use in their experiments. Think of it as ‘compare the market’, but for Antibodies. The site is completely unique in that it ranks search results by the number of citations an antibody has received in academic papers, which allows researchers to find those that have been proven to work for the applications they’re interested in.

CiteAb was initially the brainchild of Dr Andrew Chalmers from our Department of Biology & Biochemistry who was frustrated by the time and money wasted finding the right antibodies for his laboratory. Andrew approached Bath web development company Storm Consultancy, run by Bath graduates David Kelly and Adam Pope, and CiteAb was founded.

Talking about the award, Dr Chalmers said: “As you can imagine, we’re all thrilled to have our work recognised in this way. This is a fantastic accolade and we’re all really proud. The whole team has worked hard to make CiteAb the go-to resource for research antibodies so it is great when others see the potential that we do.”

What started out as a small-scale project in late 2012 grew quickly in its first months. CiteAb was first launched to researchers in March 2013, and by May 2013 the website was listing 1 million antibodies and had made connections around the world. Fast forward to January 2014, CiteAb spun out of the University and became CiteAb Ltd, and the company announced that it listed its 2 millionth antibody in July 2014.

University of Bath School of Management graduate, co-founder of Storm Consultancy and CiteAb CEO David Kelly said: “A key technical challenge in developing CiteAb was the quantity of data that had to be collected from different sources and homogenised. We list over 2 million antibodies, making us the world’s largest antibody database. We also list 180,000 publications, over 520,000 citations and 111 antibody suppliers.

“All this data must be stored in comparable formats so that ratings are possible. Adam and Paul met the challenge by building an architecture that was able to respond quickly and accurately to many different complex searches.”

Founder Dr Andrew Chalmers (right) with CiteAb employee Matt Helsby and Lynne Fernquest from the Bath Chronicle.

A service like CiteAb has to be monetised in order to operate in the long-term. Other search services available to researchers tend to operate on potentially biased business models - either allowing antibody suppliers to pay to be top-rated or basing their rankings on reviews which can be flawed or difficult to collect. Researchers are aware of this, so it was important to Dr Chalmers that CiteAb remained impartial and was able to give researchers the confidence they need to make an informed buying decision.

Dr Chalmers said: “For that reason, here at CiteAb we use an alternative business model which doesn’t allow for any influence from antibody suppliers. Instead, we sell world class custom data sets to antibody companies.

“These sets are able to tell which countries are investing most in bioscience research, which companies are seeing growth or decline, which antibodies are most successful, which areas of bioscience research are seeing growth and much more. This is information that antibody companies require to make investment and marketing decisions, but this business model also ensures we never compromise on our promise of impartiality that we make to researchers.”

“We also offer paid-for profiles for antibody companies. All of the antibodies listed on CiteAb are listed for free to ensure as many as possible are available for researchers. However, some of the companies listing choose to enhance their profile on CiteAb - this doesn’t increase the ranking of their antibodies but does allow them to display their logo and other company details once a researcher clicks through to one of their products.”

Since the launch of CiteAb as a resource for researchers in March 2013 the site has attracted hundreds of thousands of unique users from over 150 countries. Users have come from major universities like Oxford and Harvard, research institutes like MIT in the USA or Karolinska in Sweden, and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies like GSK and Pfizer. A large percentage of users return to the site, proving that they find the resource useful.

Graham Fisher, Commercialisation Manager for the University of Bath’s Enterprise and Knowledge Exploitation team, lead on the spinout of CiteAb from the University earlier this year. He said: “We think CiteAb is a prime example of a disruptive technology product which is helping to reshape the way people interact with their industry and we’re all very enthusiastic about its potential. We’re thrilled that CiteAb has won this award and are excited about the impact the company is having globally.”

CiteAb can be visited at www.citeab.com. For news and discussion see the blog, follow on Twitter at @CiteAb, or find CiteAb on LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook.

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