Based in Cambridge, UK, IOTA is following the steps of more established companies such as Anglo-German firm Evotec, to provide preclinical services to pharma companies based on this booming area of drug research. "FBDD now represents a paradigm shift in drug discovery," David Bailey, co-founder of IOTA Pharmaceuticals, told Outsourcing-Pharma.com. "It allows pharma companies to discover drugs in a very fast and effective way." Within the space of only a few years, this new FBDD approach has emerged as an efficient and productive route for drug discovery. Using tailored sets of chemical fragments, FBDD is delivering high-quality drug leads against a multiplicity of new therapeutic targets in the pharmaceutical sector, according to IOTA. "FBDD deploys relatively small libraries of low molecular weight 'fragments' which are tested for binding affinity, then incrementally modified into more potent, selective molecules against the target of interest," the company said. Industry players believe FBDD-based technologies can significantly reduce the timelines associated with preclinical research and can positively impact programme attrition. Only a handful of companies, including Evotec and another Cambridge-based firm Astex, currently have fragment-based screening capabilities and even less offer it as a service. In order to differentiate itself from competitors, IOTA has taken its offering a step further. While it is headquartered in the UK it has managed to form partnerships with two organisations in the Netherlands and in India, where it will conduct certain parts of drug discovery projects. Indeed, IOTA just signed a deal with the VU University of Amsterdam, which has developed a FBDD platform itself, to combine and therefore expand both organisation's expertise in FBDD. The firm has also developed an alliance with India-based Oxygen Healthcare in a bid to take advantage of the country's low cost research. In addition to its services business, the company also makes its reagents available commercially, mainly via its website. Bailey said the company has just been formed and has not yet inked any contracts with pharma companies but expects to do so in the next three to six months. "We are currently in talks with several companies in the US and Japan," he said. After it has secured its first client, the company expects to conduct 10 to 20 projects a year and generate between £1m (€1.4m) and £2m in its first year, Bailey added.