Backed by GV, formerly Google Ventures, Verana Health Inc. has picked up $30 million in series C financing, with participation from a host of leading investors. Joining the round were existing investors Biomatics Capital, Brook Byers, founder of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, GE Ventures and Lagunita Biosciences.
Verana, which has a presence in both San Francisco and New York, said it will use the funding for building up its team and platform, which combines real-world data from electronic health records (EHRs) and analytics to support the development of new devices and pharmaceuticals.
The company also noted that Miki Kapoor has joined the team as president and CEO. Doug Foster, who served as CEO during the company's formation and growth, will stay on as chief strategy officer, working with Kapoor on corporate strategy, partnerships and new product initiatives.
Kapoor told BioWorld MedTech that the latest infusion of cash brings the total raised to $45 million. Kapoor emphasized that the latest funding will help the company in "expanding aggressively our ability to serve customers through adding people to our organization," while building upon its platform's capabilities.
Start in ophthalmology
Verana, formerly known as Digisight Technologies, began developing its specialty data platform last year, when it was selected by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) as its exclusive partner for all commercial applications of the IRIS (Intelligent Research in Sight) Registry. Additional terms were not disclosed at the time.
Launched in 2014, the IRIS Registry contains more than 50 million unique patients in its database, representing 211 million patient visits and billions of data points. Kapoor said that the registry is being used for device and pharma studies. "It's capturing [more than] 90 percent of all ophthalmologists [who] are members of the academy," Kapoor said, adding that it is a "truly powerful dataset."
"The data collected in the IRIS Registry [represent] a tremendous resource that can be leveraged to advance patient care and scientific knowledge," said AAO CEO David Parke. "Working with Verana gives us the opportunity to realize the potential of the IRIS Registry and protect patient sight by empowering drug and device innovators and physicians through data insights."
Still, Kapoor sees room for additional opportunities. "While ophthalmology is incredibly exciting to us, and while we have gotten more commercial traction than we thought we would in just the early months of commercializing the IRIS Registry, what we realize is that there . . . is a small number of specialty data assets out there that could potentially be as impactful in the market as ophthalmology is," he explained, adding that the company is "neck-deep" in discussions. To that end, the company hopes to have a two-specialty data platform by the end of this year. "That is part of our use of proceeds," he said of the $30 million, noting that there is an eye toward growth into new therapeutic categories.
Kapoor said the company helps both device and drug companies by assessing the market and clinical trials, as well as how products are performing post-launch. Verana helps companies determine whether it makes sense to enter a market. Its team can answer a host of questions by looking back through the years with a longitudinal dataset, allowing customers to determine what markets of interest they should target. The clinical trial aspect also comes into play, with Verana helping answer questions about design, protocols and patient and site inclusion. Finally, Verana can help customers post-launch assess how their products are performing vs. market competitors. Kapoor also noted that customers can seek help for questions posed by regulatory authorities, such as the FDA.
"We're building what we like to call a cutting-edge platform [for] life sciences innovation that utilizes regulatory-grade, specialty datasets. In other words, these are electronic medical record data that are being used to make regulatory decisions," he said. "We combine real-world data with EHR data and advanced analytics to support that rapid development for pharma and device companies." He then pointed out that with the name change, the company has rebranded itself to become a new deep data platform.
Kapoor provided an overview of the company's deep data vision. "We were formed to empower the growth of society partners like AAO by commercializing their data and [accelerating] innovation in health care by doing [so]," he explained. The company is doing so via deep data. In his view, the health care data marketplace has changed over the last couple of years, evolving away from a "inch deep and mile wide" concept.
The marketplace had been digging deep – at least to a limited degree – with prescription and claims data. However, those datasets covered many therapeutic areas and may not have provided the true insight required. Now, both users and technology are more sophisticated, especially in terms of deeper learning and artificial intelligence (AI), he said. The former inch deep and mile wide concept has been turned on its side. With the rise of AI, companies now can extract deep data from EHRs. He also noted that the AAO was a true innovator in terms of aggregating data to such a scale and volume.
"Health care in the U.S. is evolving quickly in response to the unprecedented availability of data," said Kapoor. "Verana Health has assembled a group of leading health care investors with expertise in big data applications, and a deep bench of talented, experienced health care and technology professionals. I am excited to lead this team as we build intelligent data solutions that provide actionable insights for industry and physicians alike."