USA – Merck & Co. has introduced an initiative aimed at assisting early-stage biomedical startups that are working on innovative technologies for drug discovery and development.

The Merck Digital Sciences Studio (MDSS) will support early-stage biomedical startups with investments as well as access to technology and other opportunities in collaboration with Merck scientists. 

The studio will also provide support in the form of access to Microsoft’s Azure Cloud computing.

The program plans to include six startups at New Jersey Innovation Institute’s (NJII’s) VentureLink incubator in Newark and six in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The company said it will prioritize startups developing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) applications.

Fiona Marshall, head of discovery, preclinical and translational medicine at Merck Research Laboratories, said that “the biopharmaceutical industry has only just started to harness the tremendous opportunity presented by emerging technological developments in AI and ML.”

The MDSS initiative offers “a collaborative and entrepreneurial setting where scientists have access to the tools and expertise to fuel important innovations that advance drug discovery and development,” she added.

Merck said it will prioritize startups developing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) applications.

Technology support from Microsoft

The MDSS, which will be located in Newark, New Jersey, and Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a collaboration between Merck and the New Jersey Innovation Institute, with technology support from Microsoft for Startups.

According to Sally Frank, global lead of health and life sciences at Microsoft for Startups, the project “provides an onramp for startup founders to quickly bring their ideas to market with the strength of a global healthcare leader like Merck behind them.

Through Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub, startups in the MDSS will gain access to powerful technologies including Microsoft 365 and Azure as well as expert business advice and technical support.”

New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII) will provide the training, programming and community that are critical to early-stage startups.

NJII’s Entrepreneurship Division, which regularly works with organizations and teams to help expand their innovation mindset and train others in the methods of entrepreneurship, will provide workshops, mentorship, office hours, coaching and various community events to support program participants.

Merck said it is accepting applications for 12 spots for the first MDSS cohort. It noted that through MDSS, collaborators will accelerate and test novel and innovative digital technologies that are strategically aligned with Merck’s life science research.

The MDSS received investments from the Merck Global Health Innovation Fund, Northpond Ventures and McKesson Ventures.

Liked this article? Sign up to receive our regular email newsletters, focused on Africa and World’s healthcare industry, directly into your inbox. SUBSCRIBE HERE