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Alphabet’s GV leads $100M investment in Verana Health

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Verana Health, a San Francisco-based company that aggregates patient data for medical research and analytics, raised a $100 million funding round led by GV (formerly known as Google Ventures). Other participating investors included Bain Capital Ventures, Casdin Capital, Define Ventures, and Brook Byers, who serves as the chairman of Verana’s board.

The funding will give Verana Health additional fuel as it expands the scope of its work. The San Francisco-based company currently aggregates data from the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Academy of Neurology.

Verana says it uses de-identified patient data for medical research and to give providers analytics on patient care. For example, it has a tool that provides physicians with aggregated information on physician practice trends, and another tool that can help them find patients in their practice that might be eligible for clinical trials. Verana also works with researchers and life science companies that are trying to develop medical products and determine what treatments are most effective.

“Verana Health is building the team and technology to unlock deep clinical insights that support the development of new treatments while increasing our understanding of how these treatments can benefit patients more broadly,” GV General Partner Dr. Krishna Yeshwant said in a news release. “Under the leadership of its strong management team, Verana continues to redefine how we approach medical research.”

The company currently focuses on ophthalmic and neurologic diseases, but Verana plans to add additional categories in the future. It also plans to add additional sources of data, including imaging, genomic and claims data.

As part of that plan, Verana acquired PYA Analytics, a Knoxville, Tennessee-based data science company spun out of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. That company’s work includes linking clinical records with images to improve early detection

In a blog post, Verana CEO Miki Kapoor wrote that he plans to use PYAA’s capabilities to integrate imaging, genomic and claims data into Verana’s platform, and link it with the health record data currently in its registries.

 

Recent pivot

Verana Health didn’t start in data analytics. The company, founded in 2008, originally started as a tele-ophthalmology company. It shifted to a new business model after GV led a $30 million investment in the company in 2018 and Verana signed a deal with the American Academy of Ophthalmology, gaining access to its IRIS dataset.

The idea came from when specialty medical associations first began launching clinical data registries for quality reporting to the federal government, Kapoor wrote.

“Over the last several years, medical associations began observing that these registries could also transform the way real-world clinical data can be used by the medical community beyond enabling quality reporting by physicians,” he wrote. “The entire U.S. healthcare system is going through exhilarating changes, and Verana Health will play an important role in significantly shortening the time it takes for life-changing medical products to make their way to the patients who need them. Our approach will benefit physicians, researchers, life science innovators, regulatory agencies — and our top stakeholders, patients.”

Unfortunately, patients don’t get much of a say in this process. If their physician participated in the American Academy of Ophthalmology or the American Academy of Neurology’s registries, then it’s possible that their records were shared with Verana Health.

 In its privacy policy, Verana said it de-identifies patient data, and the researchers and life science companies that use its data are prohibited from selling it or attempting to re-identify it.

“Verana is assembling the most comprehensive datasets in medicine across multiple disease types with the goal of accelerating medical research for patients with ophthalmic and neurologic conditions,”  Kapoor said in a news release. “The financing and the addition of PYAA enable us to enrich these large clinical databases, creating a longitudinal view of the complete patient journey to inform research and patient care.”

 

Photo credit: ipopba, Getty Images

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