Jason Pearson is having a busy spring.
The CEO of Charlottetown-based Retrievium is now piloting the company’s product – which produces predictive analytics for drug companies producing new compounds. As he proceeds with this work with a drug discovery company, he’s hoping to close a seed round of funding in June.
It’s a rather hectic time for a company that began as a collaborative effort between Pearson, a computational chemist at University of P.E.I., and Ray Poirier, a chemist at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Working with another Charlottetown startup, discoverygarden, they came up with a platform that chemists could use to help find the best ways of combining chemicals to produce new compounds.
Targeting the pharmaceutical industry, Retrievium uses computational modelling to help find new drugs or materials, and to better understand the properties of chemical systems. It can tell researchers what happens when certain elements are combined, and suggests new combinations in seeking a desired result.
“It’s a young market right now – there’s not a lot of competitors in the space,” said Pearson in an interview last week. “We differentiate ourselves in a number of ways – our background, our target market. There’s a lot of room for growth as people have a lot to learn in using predictive analytics … especially in chemical structure.”
Among the achievements of this young company is being accepted into the Creative Destruction Lab, one of Canada’s leading entrepreneurial programs. What’s more impressive is that Retrievium is graduating from it. The CDL starts each cohort with a few dozen teams, which attend a one- or two-day mentoring session to receive a set of milestones from mentors. When the cohort convenes again about two months later, teams that missed their milestones are asked to leave. CDL repeats the process several times until the cohort comes down to a core of strong teams – one of which, this year, is Retrievium.
“It’s hard,” said Pearson. “We’re really scientists, and we think Dragons’ Den has got nothing on this program.” He added that the program has really helped because Retrievium gained exposure to so many top flight mentors.
Pearson is coy about the current pilot program, but he said he’s had a strong response from pharma companies. “We have clients ready to pay us money,” he said.
He is also getting a good response from potential investors and hopes to close a “relatively significant seed round” in June – a round that would allow the company to operate for 12 to 18 months. And Pearson will hone his entrepreneurial know-how by going through Next Founders, a program for maturing entrepreneurs offered by the Next Canada group.
With the money and the mentorship, Pearson is optimistic about Retrievium’s prospects.
“I’m also realistic – my scientific background tells me that we have challenges,” he said. “There are some significant things we have to prove. But the people in the room at the CDL are some of the most influential and connected in the world, really. So they’re the right people to be taking your idea and transforming it into a high-growth startup.”