Lhasa '˜preparing new software'

A NOT-FOR-PROFIT company which speeds up the development of safer drugs is preparing for a dynamic year in 2017 as it launches two major pieces of software and enters new markets.

HRH the Duke of Kent presents Lhasa CEO, Dave Watson with the Queens Award for Innovation during his visit to the Leeds based software company. Picture Tony Johnson

Leeds-based Lhasa, which received a Queen’s Award for Industry: Innovation last month, works with 350 members, including the world’s top 20 pharmaceutical companies, such as Pfizer, Novartis and GSK, as well as cosmetic manufacturers, to develop new computer-based approaches that keep the UK at the forefront of development.

The company, which is also an educational charity, has developed five pieces of software since 1989 but next year will mark a change in pace for Lhasa with the launch of two more products.

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Mirabilis is a software tool to assist in understanding whether a genotoxic impurity will be present in drug products, food additives, toiletries and cosmetics.

Meanwhile, Setaria stores safety information from the development lifecycle of a product. GSK has been using the technology for the last 18 months and next year it will be rolled out to other organisations.

The developments will lead to new jobs and increased income for the organisation.

Dave Watson, chief executive of Lhasa, said: “2017 is going to be a big year for us. Aside from Mirabilis and Setaria, we have two pan-European projects finishing and we are working on another long-term European project. There is a lot going on at both a scientific and a software level.”

Lhasa works closely with its members to streamline their development processes.

“They trust us with their confidential data. All our software is derived from taking data and creating knowledge,” said Mr Watson.

“Our approach allows new chemical entities, like drugs, to be brought to market quicker for the benefit of the public.”

The company, which has an income of £8.5m, is expanding to cope with the extra work. It has recruited 50 staff this year, taking the number to 150 by the end of the year, and it aims to employ another 18 staff in 2017.

“Competition for staff in Leeds is brisk but we work with the universities and we have placement students and paid interns. We put a lot back into the region and also the industry.” said Mr Watson.

Once it has recruited staff Lhasa has a low staff turnover, he said. “We look after our staff here,” he added.

Initially based in the chemistry department at the University of Leeds, Lhasa now employs people across sites in Leeds, Newcastle, Poland and US,

Lhasa received its Queen’s Award for Industry: Innovation for its leading scientific software Derek Nexus. “It was a real honour,” said Mr Watson. “But I can’t emphasise enough that collaboration is what we’re all about. We are the eponymous honest broker of shared data and we work on the principle that shared knowledge is shared progress..”

Lhasa has signed another five-year co-operative research and development agreement with the Food and Drug Administration in Washington DC.

It is also negotiating with members over four projects, including another pan-European consortium being put in place by the Innovative Medicines Initiative to connect pre-clinical and clinical data.