The Sanofi-partnered startup finding clinical trials for the 90%
Sanofi wanted help finding new trial sites, so a couple years ago they started talking with a startup down the street – who sent them to China.
The Paris-based startup, Inato, was building a platform to expand the pool of patients for clinical trials. Only instead of advertising or matching patients with trials, as other young companies have, Inato was trying to match pharma companies with the vast majority of hospitals that rarely, if ever, host a trial, even if they have patients better suited to a particular study than a marquee name hospital. Call them a trial platform for the 99% – or, by Inato’s calculations, the 90% of sites that are generally ignored in clinical research.
That might mean connecting Eli Lilly to a hospital upstate of New York City’s Mt. Sinai Hospital with less experience but more melanoma patients. Or, in Sanofi’s case, it meant helping expand the company’s foothold China, where the healthcare system is growing rapidly but is still young and where the government has recently reformed trial standards and incentives.
“The platform was so well received by the clinops internally that they decided to ramp up very rapidly,” Inato CEO Kourosh Davarpanah told Endpoints News.
Davarpanah says Sanofi – the world’s seventh largest pharma by R&D spending – now uses Inato to select sites for “virtually all” of their trials. And the company hopes to soon expand their rolodex. Today, they announced a $14 million Series A round led by Obvious Ventures and Cathay Innovation, and joined by Serena and Fly Ventures.
The CEO said he told investors that he was taking the same advanced data science that has remade therapeutics and bringing it to the clinical trial space. They did not immediately jump into his open arms.
“I would say we had a difficult time explaining the entire clinical trial space to investors,” Davarpanah said.
Skepticism from venture capitalists is to be expected, but Inato is far from alone in rethinking how clinical trials are done. DNA sequencing companies such as Genapsys are trying to use their tech to select patients most likely to be susceptible to drugs. Trials.Ai is using machine learning to analyze published articles and troves of data on genomics and past studies to improve trial design. Deep 6 AI promises to help you “find more patients in minutes, not months.”
Inato has taken a different tack. It’s one of the few companies working on finding new clinical trial sites, which they say will then lead to pharma companies and biotechs finding more and better patients. They point to figures that suggest 75% of clinical trials are held in around 10% of all hospitals. These select hospitals have experience and prestige, Davarpanah said, but they might lack the ideal patient population for any given trial.
Inato’s platform shows pharma companies a world map made up of little dots, like those seen in old TV news stations. Dots representing potential trial sites are lit up in green, yellow or red. Click on one and it will show you that hospital’s access to patients and other factors, such as “experience,” “investigator motivation,” “competition.” There’s also a “quality” rating and a list of “capabilities.”
On the other end, Inato helps sites with little experience prepare for a trial. They also facilitate communication between sites and developers, helping pharma companies gauge interest. They claim to have trials on 32 indications and in over 2000 sites across 75 countries so far.
So far, Sanofi is the only major pharma partner. But Davarpanah said there’s broader interest, including from big pharma companies.
“Very few hospitals have had the opportunity to participate in clinical trials,” Davarpanah said. “We’re coming at a very old problem.”
Correction: An earlier version of the article incorrectly alluded to talks with a pharma company. The reference has been removed.