Cambridge startup OutSee Ltd aims to unearth new drug targets with its AI genomics tech

13 Mar, 2024
Tony Quested
No-one could accuse Cambridge scientist Dr Julian Gough of pursuing a ‘get rich quick’ philosophy as he continues to cross the bridge between academia and business.
Dr Julian Gough. Credit: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) /

Witness his latest venture, OutSee Ltd, which was founded to exploit large-scale genomics datasets by using its proprietary AI genomics technology for novel drug target discovery and validation.

Dr Gough initially envisioned the potential of the approach within academia 10 years ago. The initial concept has been fleshed out to startup status and the founder and CEO is overseeing a potential £2.3m seed round to initiate internal programmes and build pharma partnerships over a controlled two year progression.

The innovative AI genomics technology uncovers disease-modulating biological mechanisms. Dr Gough owns the Intellectual Property in the form of patents, copyright and knowhow. He is well respected in the Life Sciences community globally through his work with the Laboratory of Molecular Biology and as a founder and board member of influential BioMedTech businesses such as Mogrify down the years. He continues to work on projects with Mogrify where he is also a director and chair of the Scientific Advisory Board.

OutSee Ltd, which will be hiring talent along with the fundraise, is predicated on a highly salient fact.

While there have been great advances the ability to sequence genomes at decreasing cost – leading to an ever-growing production of genomic data – this has not been matched to the same degree by innovation and invention of computational techniques for the interpretation of that data.

It is only relatively recently that the vast potential for medical and therapeutic advances known to be contained within the information encoded in people’s genomes, is being more widely exploited by pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

But, as Dr Gough is well aware, even after applying the state-of-the-art genome analysis tools, existing datasets remain heavily underexploited, leaving enormous opportunities for anyone who can extract further value using new technologies. And that is where OutSee plans to come in.

Addressing the solution on a Cambridge University site, Dr Gough drills down to the nitty gritty of what OutSee will bring to the party.

“The traditional approach to human genetics asks ‘Does the data contain the answer to my question?’ whereas we instead ask: ‘For which questions does an answer lie within the data?’. So instead of relying on statistical association between genotype and phenotype, OutSee has a predictive algorithm based on knowledge of molecular and cell biology.

“This is non-competing with state-of-the-art methods, extracting only additional value from genomics cohorts. Using its reverse (or ‘genetics first’) approach, yields verifiable hypotheses for novel mechanisms and pathways that modulate diseases. OutSee can discover new drug targets from already-mined genomic datasets and stratify patients in new ways.”

For the uninitiated, after completing his PhD in 2000, Julian worked briefly at the LMB as a postdoctoral scientist before taking up a research fellowship at Stanford University with Michael Levitt, another LMB alumnus (and Nobel Laureate).

After two further positions at RIKEN in Tokyo and Institut Pasteur in Paris, he joined the faculty of the University of Bristol in 2007, subsequently becoming full professor in 2012.

During these years he innovated repeatedly in the field of bioinformatics and data-driven computational biology contributing several impactful tools and resources to the field of biology spanning scales from molecules to cells and organisms.

After starting his career in protein structure and sequence at the LMB, his subsequent contributions were most notably made to the fields of cell reprogramming (Mogrify) and human genetics (Nomaly).

Julian returned to the LMB in 2017 as a Programme Leader, to pursue the application of Mogrify for computationally-driven experimental cell reprogramming and to develop the application of Nomaly for predictive human genetics.

He left the LMB in September 2023 to pursue the possibilities presented by OutSee and already a new chapter has begun to be written in the ‘Book of Life’ – as the world of genomics became known when Cambridge-based Wellcome Sanger Institute led the completion of the Human Genome Project.

• Julian Gough was named Cambridge Enterprise Academic Entrepreneur of the Year in the 30th Anniversary Business Weekly Awards in 2020.