PatientsLikeMe raises $7M with an eye on partners

By Jonah Comstock
01:12 pm

PatientsLikeMe's new CEO Martin Coulter

PatientsLikeMe, the online patient community network has quietly raised $7 million from its existing investor base. The new raise brings the company's total funding to $32 million, according to newly-hired CEO Martin Coulter. PatientsLikeMe's website lists investors CommerceNet, Omidyar Network, Collaborative Seed and Growth Partners, LLC, and Invus LP.

"The new funding, provided by our existing investor group, will allow us to continue to invest in the business, enhancing our capabilities to bring the patient experience to the world of healthcare," Coulter told MobiHealthNews in an email. "This includes advancing our web platform, adding talent to the team and driving further innovation in how we serve our members and partners."

Coulter implied that the new funding is tied to PatientsLikeMe's recent branching out -- the company began as an online patient disease community for ALS, but evolved into a hub for crowdsourced data on a wide variety of diseases. PatientsLikeMe launched an open-participation research platform in February with the help of a $1.9 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Recently, the company has expanded even on that mission, working with pharmaceutical companies to leverage its user base as potential clinical trial participants. Sanofi announced that it would work with PatientsLikeMe to recruit for clinical trials last month, a similar arrangement to one Merck made with the company in August of 2012. Just this week PatientsLikeMe announced a partnership with clinical consulting firm inVentiv Health to use the platform for clinical trial recruitment for InVentiv's pharmaceutical clients.

The other big news for PatientsLikeMe lately has been staffing changes which signal an eye toward expansion for the largely homegrown company, hitherto run by brothers Jamie and Ben Heywood. The 9-year-old company hired Coulter to be its first ever CEO at the end of May. At the time, Jamie Heywood's press comments suggested future partnerships with not just pharmaceutical companies, but healthcare providers.

"Martin brings that next level of operational excellence to PatientsLikeMe and is a perfect complement to Ben and me," he said in a statement. "His experience with hospitals and healthcare systems will both improve our services to patients and open new market opportunities where our unique patient-centered outcomes can drive improvements in healthcare."

Coulter came from a top-level job at The Advisory Board Company, a publicly traded healthcare technology and services firm. Prior to that he was CEO of Citizens Energy Corporation, a nonprofit healthcare and energy organization.

PatientsLikeMe also recently hired Marcia Nizzari to be Vice President of Engineering. Nizzari has worked with MIT, Harvard, and molecular diagnostics lab Good Start Genetics where she worked with software engineering and bioinformatics.

"Marcia has joined the team at a time when we’re evolving our website to meet emerging patient needs and securing more partner projects," said Chief Operating Officer Sebastiaan Foppema in a statement. "Her software expertise and technical management experience will be instrumental to ensuring we align our resources with the best interests of patients and partners."


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