Recruiting for clinical trials can often be challenging, especially for conditions with a limited group of patients. To make the research process a little bit easier, a company called Unlearn.AI is developing a platform to populate control arms with “digital twins.”
Unlearn closed a $12 million series A round led by 8VC. As part of the investment, 8VC Principal Francisco Gimenez will join the company’s board of directors. Previous investors DCVC, DCVC Bio and Mubadala Capital Ventures also participated in the round.
Unlearn CEO Charles Fisher, a former computational biologist at Pfizer, founded the San Francisco-based startup in 2017. The idea was to reduce the number of patients required to run a trial.
The company uses machine learning models to process historical clinical trial data, generating “digital twins” whose health records resemble actual people. The longitudinal records would include information on demographics, common lab tests, and biomarkers that would resemble actual patient records.
Unlearn plans to first focus its efforts on neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis, both of which face challenges in enrolling new patients in clinical trials.
“Clinical trial recruitment in Alzheimer’s Disease is daunting and study success continues to be challenged by a limited pool of patients,” Craig Lipset, founder of Clinical Innovation Partners and a member of Unlearn’s advisory board, said in a news release. “Unlearn’s unique model has shown that it can provide realistic digital patient records to supplement actual control patients in Alzheimer’s Disease trials. This is a potential game-changer, not only in trial recruitment strategies, but also in the delivery of high-quality data that supports study confidence and success.”
Other companies that raised funding this week include:
Amount: $38 million
Headquarters: San Francisco
Nitrome Biosciences, a company developing a treatment for Parkinson’s disease and other age-related conditions, closed a $38 million funding round led by Sofinnova Partners and AbbVie Ventures. Other investors include the Dementia Discovery Fund, Mission Bay Capital and Alexandria Venture Investmnets.
As part of the investment, Sofinnova Managing Partner Henrijette Richter, AbbVie Managing Director Margarita Chavez and Dementia Discovery Fund Partner Jonathan Behr will join Nitrome’s board of directors.
Nitrome is developing drugs that act against a newly identified class of enzymes called Nitrases, which are thought to play a role in the progression of Parkinson’s disease. For its research on these enzymes, the company won a Target Advancement grant from The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) last year. In the long-term the company hopes to expand its platform to other indications beyond Parkinson’s.
Amount: $12.9 million
Headquarters: New York
H1, whose business model can be best described as “LinkedIn for healthcare,” raised a $12.9 million series A round led by Menlo Ventures. The company plans to use the additional cash to grow its sales and engineering teams, and expand into additional markets.
The three-year-old professional networking site has profiles of more than 8 million healthcare professionals and 16,000 institutions. H1 counts seven of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies as its clients, which use its service to connect with healthcare professionals relevant to the products they’re launching. The company saw its revenue increase by 350% between 2018 and 2019.
As part of the investment, Menlo Ventures Partner Greg Yap will join H1’s board of directors. Other participating investors in the round include Novartis DRX, Y Combinator, and Baron Davis Enterprises.
Amount: $20 million
Headquarters: Westminster, Calif.
Clever Care Health Plan, a startup planning to launch a California-based Medicare Advantage plan, raised $20 million in series A funding. Norwest Venture Partners led the funding round, with participation from Global Founders Capital. Both companies had also invested in the company’s previous $6 million seed round.
Norwest and GFC said they chose to invest in Clever Care because of its founders’ experience in creating and managing new health plans. The company was founded by CEO Dave Firdaus, COO Myong Lee, and CFO Hiep Pham. Firdaus had previously served as CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona Advantage.
In a news release, Lee said the idea for the company came in part from seeing his parents interact with their health plan, with the challenges they faced in accessing healthcare through an interpreter and a limited number of in-network providers that understood their culture.
Funding amount: $7 million
Headquarters: Israel and Boston
XRHealth, a Boston-based company using virtual reality for healthcare, raised $7 million in funding. The company is building virtual reality applications for physical therapy, stress management and other conditions. It also offers virtual support groups for patients with similar conditions moderated by a physician.
Patients who use XRHealth’s products are shipped a VR headset. The company can deliver information on how patients use the platform to their clinicians in real time.
The $7 million funding round was led by Bridges Israel, Flint Capital and 20/20 HealthCare Partners.
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