Real-world data get real dollars: GV, Bain help infuse $100M into Verana Health as pragmatic trial space heats up
As the application of real-world data in clinical practice and drug development becomes the reality for a growing number of physicians as well as drugmakers, GV and a marquee syndicate are betting some real dollars on one San Francisco player.
The crew formerly known as Google Ventures is leading a $100 million round for Verana Health, which has just acquired a smaller company specializing in large-scale data architecture solutions dubbed PYA Analytics. Bain Capital Ventures, Casdin Capital and Define Ventures also chipped in.
Verana began two years ago focused on two big disease areas: ophthalmology and neurology. Partnering with the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Academy of Neurology, the company agrees to foot the bill for their registries — where physicians can both research de-identified electronic health records data and report their own observations — in exchange for access to the datasets.
“Our differentiator is our close collaboration with medical associations and physicians — and our focus on data depth and our expertise in specialty areas,” CEO Miki Kapoor told Endpoints News. “When we go deep on a dataset, we’re talking about 70% of the country’s records in ophthalmology, for example.”
As medical record sharing pacts between hospital networks and tech giants come under scrutiny, it also helps that Verana is working with authoritative, trusted stewards of data.
The new financing allows them to expand into new therapeutic categories and integrate imaging, genomics and claims data sources, Verana said, with new data analysis and linking capabilities from the PYAA team. Verana has also signed on with a third large medical registry, Kapoor said.
Currently, these data are locked in separate repositories, he added, creating a kind of siloed information systems that have been frequently criticized by others working on real-world evidence.
While Verana bills itself as a “provider-focused” operation — with services helping doctors see aggregated practice trends and learn about clinical trials — Krishna Yeshwant, general partner at GV, noted its potential to “unlock deep clinical insights that support the development of new treatments while increasing our understanding of how these treatments can benefit patients more broadly.”
Kapoor offered an illustration in a blog post:
For example, through the Axon Registry, we want to be able to research trends in progression and track the impact of specific treatments over time for conditions such as multiple sclerosis, migraine and epilepsy. We aim to improve treatments and discover cures for the one in six people affected by neurologic disease.
Unlike some of its counterparts, though, Verana doesn’t boast about its Big Pharma collaborations — at least not yet.
But Verana does work with a number of life sciences and diagnostics players, Kapoor said, offering services in four areas: protocol optimization, patient recruitment, site engagement and real-world drug performance. And a fifth, providing regulatory-grade data for a pragmatic control arm in clinical trials that drugmakers can take to regulators, is in the works — which includes an FDA-partnered project coming in a few months.
“If we were to follow the timelines of our pharma customers, and regulator partners, we would be doing it sooner,” he said. “In fact, we would be doing it sooner than we want to. But what we have decided is that over the course of this year, 2020, we’re getting ourselves ready for a world in which we can actually do that. So by the end of this year, I hope to be doing pragmatic work.”
PYAA will remain and grow in Knoxville, TN, it added, while the parent company scales up its San Francisco headquarters and New York office, hiring 45 to complement the 85-strong workforce.