Do you know your antigen from your epitope? Dr Andrew Chalmers, senior lecturer in the Department of Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Bath, certainly does. As a researcher, however, he became increasingly exasperated trying to find the correct antibodies for his and his students’ experiments. He decided to work on a solution and in March 2013 co-founded CiteAb, a search engine specifically for antibodies. Since then, CiteAb has added 1.8million antibodies and counting, not to mention winning the ‘best startup’ gong at the 2013 SPARKies awards ceremony.
As he says: ‘…the amount of effort students and postdocs in my lab spent looking for antibodies, and the number of antibodies we bought that didn’t work, were real drivers in developing the idea for CiteAb. The time and money wasted made me believe there must be a better way of searching for and choosing between antibodies.’
Dr Chalmers and fellow co-founder Dave Kelly – Managing Director of Storm Consultancy – with guidance and support from the University of Bath, were instrumental in changing the way scientific research is conducted; lifting a great weight off the shoulder of huge swathes of the medical community. Their simple aim? To help researchers find the right antibody for their experiments.
The site now gives researchers access to antibodies from over 60 companies worldwide, rated by their citations in over 100,000 research papers. While many search engines take payments and adjust search rankings accordingly, focusing their service around citations affords CiteAb users impartial and more accurate results.
‘Bath is conducive to the growth of young companies – especially those with a digital angle’
Now they are looking at ways to ensure the long-term stability and progression of CiteAb.
What does this mean? Well, now they have all this data, the plan is to analyse it further, taking a more in-depth look at the wealth of publication data they hold. This has allowed them to produce a series of reports showing market share trends for countries, companies, antibodies and research areas.
Unlike the usual market surveys, CiteAb’s are unique in that they’re based on analysis of hundreds of thousands of antibody-specific publications, so they are able to provide a comprehensive and unbiased view of the bioscience research market. That huge database of antibody citations also provides a valuable resource to find experimental details when planning antibody experiments.
Being based in Bath has its advantages too: Dr Chalmers has a really strong network of potential CiteAb users here in the city thanks to the University of Bath’s thriving Faculty of Science.
The University provided CiteAb with a great deal of support during the initial development and rollout, and continues to be involved on the CiteAb board. The connections within their sector afforded by the University of Bath are invaluable to a small company in its early years.
The city itself is also conducive to the growth of young companies – especially those with a digital angle. According to Matthew Helsby, the development manager at CiteAb: ‘The city has a strong digital presence and there is a lot of support for startups and those new to business.’
“The city has a strong digital presence and there is a lot of support for startups and those new to business”
That’s not to say it has been completely plain sailing. For Dr Chalmers, who has a background in research, moving into the business world has meant a completely different way of working. The adjustment took some getting used to although he has found the whole process extremely exciting.
Luckily his fellow co-founder Dave Kelly has a background in web software development, and was there to provide support on the business and software side. And what adjustments did he have to make? ‘Just learning what an antibody was was a good start.’
Although not currently looking for investors or employees CiteAb believes that, with the future looking as bright as it does, they will do soon. Opportunities are first posted on their blog so it’s worth keeping an eye on that and they are always keen to hear from people who are interested in CiteAb. So if you’ve any questions please do give them a shout: ‘we love to talk about our organisation!’
Thanks to Dr Chalmers for speaking to us. If you’ve scrolled through CiteAb’s 1.8 million antibodies and found one missing, feel free to let them know on Twitter or Google+. And while you’re mooching around Twitter, follow us too.