Data-Driven Drug Discovery

Connecting the UK Life Sciences Ecosystem Driving Better Predictability of Pre-clinical Medicines Discovery Impact
Data-Driven Drug Discovery

How we are helping to increase the flow and availability of data for drug discovery.

Predict who is most at risk from falling ill...

... and how best to treat them.

Online health queries are launched through Google's search engine

More than 1.2 Trillion



The significant volume of health data it generates aids decision making, informs research, and can be used to develop new treatments.

It can also predict who is most at risk from falling ill – and how best to treat them.

Drug discovery is a Data-Driven Industry
People have been providing valuable health data for many years, for example, through wearable devices, online searches, and electronic health records.
But although harnessing the power of health data has significant benefits, including driving forward drug discovery innovations, it is not always readily available.
Why? Because there are still challenges around collecting, accessing and using data – including pivotal information needed for target selection, patient stratification and diagnosis.
Review from Professor Chris Molloy

"Well-meaning regulation is making data inaccessible in a global market for ideas."

At Medicines Discovery Catapult, we’re collaborating on ways to overcome these challenges.

Our focus is on the three key obstacles that innovators face when it comes to health data:

1. Collecting Data
Knowledge gleaned from health data can inform researchers to help cure diseases and develop medicines for various conditions. But while privacy protection is paramount, consent should always be the starting point.
2. Access to data
For UK SMEs, a lack of capacity, tools or knowledge to find, access, process, integrate, analyse and interpret third party data is a significant challenge. Faced with long delays, many look overseas to get the information they need in weeks, rather than months.
3. Skills shortage
To keep pace with increasingly complex health data, investment in higher education and vocational training initiatives, co-developed with industry, is needed to nurture a pipeline of talent.
Collecting data:
Although stringent security measures are required by law to protect health data, some people are reluctant to share personal information. Privacy concerns take precedence over the positive benefits of sharing their data to help develop medicines and cure diseases.
Access to data:
An abundance of data is generated every day in the thriving life science sector. But accessing it is a real sticking point. Research by Medicines Discovery Catapult and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) found that, when asked about their health data requirements, 78% of representatives from the pharma and life sciences industry wanted support to identify and assess the quality of data sets.
Skills shortage:
The more sophisticated the technologies and techniques for generating and evaluating health data become, the more skilled informaticians are needed to extract the value it holds. According to the 2022 Genomics Nation report, 82% of genomics SMEs surveyed said finding staff with the right skills was their main skills/talent issue. 70% of respondents cited computer science, data science and machines learning skills as the most difficult to recruit.
Review from Professor Chris Molloy

"Without good-quality data, you make poor-quality decisions."

At Medicines Discovery Catapult, our aim is to encourage the steady flow of high-quality, consented health data to innovative drug discovery companies.

It is paramount that health data gets into the hands of those developing new therapeutics, along with the capabilities, technologies, and skills required to generate and evaluate it at pace.

Medicines Discovery Catapult’s extensive informatics capabilities and industry expertise mean we can support innovators directly with advanced technology and informatics tools.
This enables researchers to make the data-driven decisions needed to accelerate medicines and get treatments to patients faster.
It is a subject that we are regularly asked to share our expertise on.
For example, Professor Chris Molloy, CEO of Medicines Discovery Catapult, was invited to speak at the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s Inquiry into the use of health data. He was clear that while privacy is important, so too is increasing the availability of, and access to, data that has the potential to save lives. Medicines Discovery Catapult’s expertise in this field has also been utilised in a range of sector initiatives.
Use of Health Data Report
MDC’s report, released in collaboration with ABPI, explores the use of health data and the barriers faced by the UK life sciences industry. The report highlighted key issues and the steps being taken by stakeholders to deliver a clear and credible offer for the R&D community. We are also driving change in the sector through a number of high-profile initiatives.
Genomics Nation Report
Medicines Discovery Catapult collaborated with the UK Bioindustry Association (BIA) and the Wellcome Sanger Institute on the 2022 Genomics Nation report. The report hails the sector’s strengths in data-driven drug discovery and highlights skills shortage as a priority area that must be addressed.
Thought leadership
Leading the conversation around data-driven discovery, we also engaged key parliamentarians via Politics Home, a publication for the most influential people in UK politics. The article highlighted the opportunities and challenges of using health data in drug discovery and presented thought-provoking solutions to key government stakeholders – including the concept of a sovereign health fund.
So, what will be the impact of all these initiatives?
The quantity of data generated by drug discovery is growing exponentially. Finding ways to harness that data will transform how we identify and treat illnesses. Medicines Discovery Catapult is engaged in conversations with industry, medical charities, government, and the NHS to find ways to overcome the health data challenges that are affecting the rate of innovation in medicines discovery.
Professor Chris Molloy


Medicines Discovery Catapult

“The use of consented health data is a vital but achingly distant resource that no country has yet made effectively available to drug discovery innovators. Medicines Discovery Catapult is committed to working with our partners across the drug discovery sector to overcome the barriers in place and help release the steady flow of data that is so desperately needed. Together, we will ensure that the UK remains at the cutting edge of discoveries and get treatments to patients faster.”

Medicines Discovery Catapult
To find out more about Medicines Discovery Catapult and the impact we could have on your next drug discovery project, explore our website.