Crain’s Selects Two Northwestern Companies as Chicago’s Most Innovative

Narrative Science and Aptinyx take top two spots on 2018 list

A pair of Northwestern University spin-off companies — Narrative Science and Aptinyx — have claimed the top two spots on Crain’s Chicago Business’s 2018 list of Most Innovative Companies.

After scouring patents issued in 2017, Crain’s identified and ranked 25 Chicago-based companies “that are reinventing themselves and their marketplaces.”

Ranked at number one, Narrative Science uses artificial intelligence to turn big data into stories. Kristian Hammond and Larry Birnbaum, both Northwestern Engineering computer science professors, founded the company in 2010.

Narrative Science’s flagship product is Quill, which uses computer algorithms to extract the most important information from large segments of data and then crafts those insights into easy-to-scan, understandable narrative reports. More recently, the company introduced Narratives for Business Intelligence, a suite of natural language extensions that mine charts, tables, and graphs for insights and then convert that information into narrative language.

Number two on Crain’s list, Aptinyx develops drugs to treat nerve pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and Parkinson’s disease. Joseph Moskal, Northwestern Engineering professor of biomedical engineering, professor of neurological surgery in the Feinberg School of Medicine, and director of the Falk Center for Molecular Therapeutics, launched the company after selling biopharmaceutical company Naurex to Allergan for $1.7 billion.

The driver behind Moskal’s companies is a proven platform for discovering compounds that modulate the brain’s NMDA receptors to enhance communication among neural cells. Aptinyx is currently testing a drug for neuropathic pain in phase two clinical studies.