Source: Inato.com

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.

Kourosh Davarpanah

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. 

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