Medable trots its way to unicorn status amid virtual trial craze. Is a public debut next?
As it becomes apparent that decentralized clinical trials will likely be a part of drugmakers’ strategies long after the pandemic is over, a tech developer is galloping its way to unicorn status with a $304 million megaround.
Medable unveiled a hefty Series D round on Tuesday — its fourth in the last year and a half — led by Blackstone Growth, Tiger Global and GSR Ventures. The new cash brings the Palo Alto-based company’s total raise to $521 million, with a whopping $2.1 billion valuation.
The team will use these funds to tackle longstanding “barriers to drug development,” including a lack of diversity in clinical trials, the time it takes to conduct a large study, and a lack of awareness for trials themselves.
“We are not making medicine for everybody,” chief growth officer Sanskriti Thakur told Endpoints News. “The reality is only 2 to 3% of the population who are appropriate for scientific research ever get access to it.”
The numbers are even more stark for communities of color. Of the 53 drugs approved this past year, Black patients represented about 8% of participants in the trials regulators based their decisions on (and for which data on race was collected), despite representing about 13% of the US population. LatinX participants represented just under 13% of studies.
Medable believes its platform can be used to recruit more diverse patient populations faster — and retain them. It’s the type of technology that allows volunteers to pick up a phone to participate in a trial, rather than visiting a clinic, which may be far away, or operating under restrictions amid the pandemic.
“Decentralized trial technologies have been critical to drug development during the pandemic, providing global remote access and supporting COVID vaccine and therapeutic research at record speed,” CEO and co-founder Michelle Longmire said in a statement. “Patients need the life sciences industry to continue innovating at this pace.
Since launching in 2012 and then securing its first customer in 2016, Medable has deployed its software in more than 150 decentralized and hybrid trials in 60 countries. As expected, the business saw a big boost amid the pandemic, announcing last year that its revenue had soared more than 500%.
Now that it’s had the time to look at the data from those trials, Medable claims its platform helped achieve 200% faster enrollment rates, 90% retention rates, and 50% cost reductions.
Last year, the company launched three new applications: TeleVisit, which connects patients with site coordinators and investigators; TeleConsent, which allows patients to virtually consent and re-consent to clinical trials; and TeleCOA, which combines electronic Clinical Outcome Assessments (eCOAs) with TeleVisits. It also struck partnerships with Datavant, AliveCor and MRN.
When asked if an IPO is on the horizon, Thakur responded: “We will fund ourselves in order to achieve our mission. And I think that we have to really consider what the right structure is for us.”
Medable is far from alone in this space. Science 37 took its first stroll down Wall Street just last month when it completed a $235 million SPAC merger with LifeSci Acquisition II Corp. Parexel, a CRO with virtual trial abilities, was snapped up by Goldman Sachs’ private equity branch and the EQT IX fund for $8.5 billion earlier this year. And those are just a few of the players betting that the future of clinical trials is virtual.
“It’s important that we recognize that the whole industry is at a decision point,” Thakur said.