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Wingu de-stealths, seeking to help pharma companies collect and analyze data from collaborations

Posted by Scott Kirsner  March 6, 2012 08:30 AM

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Nick Encina has come up with a pretty succinct way to describe his start-up, Wingu: "It's like 'Moneyball' for pharma," referring to the book and movie about a data-driven approach to assessing the value of baseball players.

Essentially, Encina and co-founder Brian Gilman observed that even as big pharma and biotech companies were entering into more research partnerships with other entities from start-ups to outsourced research firms there wasn't a well-designed piece of software to collect all the data that the partnership was producing. And the "Moneyball" element is the software's ability to analyze which of the collaborations are working out the best.

Today, the stealthy Cambridge start-up is planning to talk a bit more openly about what it has been developing for the past three years, with a booth at a Mass Biotech Council conference.

"Pharma companies are under pressure to reduce the cost and time of developing new drugs, so they're working with all these external partners," says Encina. "What we're trying to do is create a software-as-a-service environment where you're exchanging data, tasks and timelines, and where the pharma company can tell which projects are going well." Assessing whether a partner is delivering high-quality data, and doing it on time, are among the parameters Wingu tracks, as well as how satisfied various people within the pharma company are with the performance of the partner. Over time, Encina says, "it builds up institutional knowledge about who the best partners are."

The company received several million dollars in initial funding from Google Ventures and Borealis Ventures last year, and Encina says he plans to close a second round of funding later this year. Encina says that Wingu is working with several pilot customers in Cambridge, but he wasn't willing to name them.

Here's a snap I took at Wingu's office in the Cambridge Innovation Center, where seven of the eleven employees work at stand-up desks in part because it can make the small space seem more capacious. (They're in the process of expanding it.)

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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