UMB startup releases cutting-edge software platform for pharmaceutical researchers

Pumas-AI, a new University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) startup company established by University of Maryland School of Pharmacy (SOP) faculty members Vijay Ivaturi, PhD, assistant professor, and Joga Gobburu, PhD, MBA, professor, has released its first, cutting-edge software platform for pharmaceutical researchers and clinicians.

Known as Pharmaceutical Modeling and Simulation (Pumas), the software was developed at UMB through a partnership with experts at Julia Computing. Software development efforts have been led by Christopher Rackauckas, PhD, senior research analyst in the SOP Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science, with significant input from independent contributor Joakim Nyberg, PhD, of Uppsala, Sweden.

Pumas is a copyrighted, comprehensive platform based on the Julia programming language that contains multiple modules designed to meet the needs of analysts in the pharmaceutical industry, while also working to advance therapeutic innovation in the clinic setting.

"The success rate for pharmaceutical innovations is approximately two percent," says Gobburu, who, in addition to his role in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science, also serves as executive director of the Center for Translational Medicine (CTM) at the School of Pharmacy. "Pumas software is tailored to revolutionize big data analytics in health care, unlike those tools used in other fields. By combining the extensive health care knowledge of our faculty and staff with the scientific computing experts at Julia Computing, we have developed a tool that will not only benefit business leaders working in the pharmaceutical industry, but also those who are caring for patients on the frontline of health care delivery."

Moving technologies with commercial potential, such as Pumas, into the public sector is an important aspect of what universities do. This innovative health care data software created by SOP's scientific team is a big success for UMB and will be incredibly beneficial to the public as it's further developed."

Phil Robilotto, UMB associate vice president, Office of Technology Transfer, and director of UM Ventures, Baltimore

The Pumas software platform, licensed from UMB, is the first product released by Pumas-AI, whose goal is to double pharmaceutical and patient care success rates by democratizing tools and education in the health care data analytics space. Pumas provides a wide range of analytic capabilities for pharmaceutical and biotechnology development, as well as therapeutic decision making – addressing a crucial need for pharmaceutical companies and investors, who often base their decisions on a combination of technical, regulatory, and commercial success probabilities, all of which the Pumas software can provide quantitatively.

"Pumas is our company's first product specifically designed for professionals in the pharmaceutical and health delivery sectors to bridge this gap," says Gobburu. "It leverages the Julia programming language, and combines modern artificial intelligence (AI) with traditional mechanistic models, allowing the CTM to foster one of its goals of enhancing real-world data analytics."

Julia was selected for its speed and succinctness as a programming language, which produces an interface that looks similar to R, but operates at the speed of FORTRAN. Because Pumas is created entirely in Julia, users can make direct use of the language's database, statistics, and visualization functionality – all without losing performance. Pumas was released in July in conjunction with a Julia language conference hosted by UMB.

"Pumas is the first pharmaceutical modeling suite that is designed from the ground up to be used with modern graphics processing unit (GPU) hardware and parallelized stiff differential equation solvers. It also allows for integration of machine learning with pharmacometrics, enabling a new kind of science known as scientific machine learning or scientific AI," says Rackauckas. "We are excited to not only accelerate current workflows, but also help users explore the new, realistic models that are enabled by this technology."

In addition, Julia is the programming language of choice for prominent researchers who work on projects at the cutting edge of machine learning as well as in differential equations research, which means that, unlike many other tools, Pumas has the unique ability to directly incorporate modern techniques to achieve maximal efficiency and accuracy.

"At the CTM, we strive to develop point-of-care solutions for providers and clinicians that can help individualize treatment for patients," says Ivaturi, who also serves as a pharmacometrician in the CTM at the School. "The Pumas software platform will be instrumental in helping us optimize treatments for a number of conditions and therapeutics."

He adds, "It is going to revolutionize therapeutic decision making and allow health care organizations to benefit from payor incentives by demonstrating substantial improvements to successful patient care."

Pumas is free for education and research at universities and commercially available otherwise.

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