Google Arm, Bain Lead $100 Million Infusion for Health-Data Startup

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(Bloomberg) -- Health-data startup Verana Health has raised $100 million from investors including GV, formerly Google Ventures, and Bain Capital Ventures, showing a continued thirst for new data-driven approaches to treating disease.

Verana currently partners with two medical associations to analyze large registries of anonymized patient data in eye disease and neurology, information the company says can help speed up the development of drugs and medical devices.

The San Francisco-based firm pairs with pharmaceutical companies and doctors to put data insights to work during research trials, and plans further expansions into imaging, genomic and claims data.

“We exist because of inefficiencies in the health-care system that have been created over the last decade or two” and trapped data into silos, said Chief Executive Officer Miki Kapoor. He described data as “a mechanism by which you create a clearer view on human health.”

A data rush is afoot in the health-care industry. Pharmaceutical companies are betting that large-scale information about patient health will power better odds when it comes to developing drugs. They’re also turning to data to reinvent the process of testing drugs, and to more precisely target patients with rare diseases.

“A lot of companies claim to have data, proprietary data, and they do something with it that’s really cool and they can save lives,” said Bain’s Yumin Choi, who leads the firm’s health-care team. But what Verana has access to “is meaningful, and you can draw real conclusions from that.”

The push has also driven concerns about patient privacy to the fore.

Partnerships with the medical societies have given Verana exclusive access to de-identified clinical databases, with the groups retaining a seat on Verana’s board. One such agreement is with the American Academy of Neurology’s Axon registry, which covers 2.3 million patients. Another is with the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s IRIS clinical database, which tracks 61 million individuals and represents 70% to 80% of all opthalmology patient data in the U.S., said David Parke, a physician and chief executive officer of the American Academy of Opthalmology.

Patient privacy was a top priority in striking the agreement, and when information from electronic health records is submitted into the database “it is stripped of any identifiers,” Parke said. Other control mechanisms are also in place, he said.

Kapoor declined to comment about the financial terms of the arrangements beyond that Verana has taken on the full operating costs of the registries. Before the deal, the American Academy of Opthalmology was beginning to question whether it could sustain the investment, Parke said. The group has an equity position in Verana but a condition of the arrangement was that no individuals, including himself, are in a position to benefit from the deal, according to Parke.

Verana also announced on Wednesday that it has acquired PYA Analytics, an information-technology company in Knoxville, Tennessee, for an undisclosed sum. The PYA acquisition will help Verana extract usable data from electronic medical record systems, Bain’s Choi said.

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