Tele-ophthalmology company DigiSight — now called Verana Health — has a new name, a new mission, a new CEO, and $30 million dollars in new funding led by Alphabet subsidiary GV (formerly Google Ventures). Additional contributors to the round include Biomatics Capital, Brook Byers (founder of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers), GE Ventures, and Lagunita Biosciences, all existing investors.
"We are very excited to have such a deep set of healthcare investors backing us and a set of investors who are really truly excited and passionate about what we do," Miki Kapoor, who joined the company three months ago as the new president and CEO, told MobiHealthNews (previously CEO Doug Foster has stayed on with the company as chief strategy officer).
The company has been considering a move into data, and beyond tele-ophthalmology, since at least 2015. But the turning point came when the company signed a deal with the American Academy of Ophthalmologists to commercialize its IRIS Registry.
"The American Academy of Ophthalmology was looking for commercialization partners for its dataset, which happens to be the largest specialty dataset in clinical medicine today, and when they started talking to us we got very interested," Kapoor said. "They recognized that our deep knowledge of ophthalmology and technology being in our DNA could actually be very additive to the IRIS dataset."
The AAO offers its members the opportunity to share EHR data on ocular health with the registry in order to receive Medicare benefits via MIPS and MACRA reporting. As a result, it's created one of the largest clinical specialty datasets. These data — along with specialized analytics — is valuable to pharmaceutical and medical device companies, which can use them as baseline data for clinical trials as they prepare for regulatory approval. Verana is already working with some large pharmas and is in conversation with others, Kapoor said.
"We think something has changed around health care data in the last few years," he said. "It used to be that you could go an inch deep and a mile wide and that was sufficient for healthcare. But that strategy has changed. Importantly, I think that strategy has now been flipped on its side, and the requirement is that you have to go a mile deep. And when you go a mile deep you can’t necessarily go a mile wide. And we’ve decided to go, in ophthalmology first, we’re going an inch wide but a mile deep. And we’re going to do that in a few more categories and we believe that today, that is what’s required to be able to pull insight out of data."
With the fresh $30 million, the company is looking for additional datasets and professional organizations to extend the model out to a few additional specialties. They also intend to use some of the funds to grow the team around the company's new focus.
"We are scaling dramatically on the data side of our business today in ophthalmology," Kapoor said. "Today we have no shortage of customers coming at us and asking us really strong good questions on how they can accelerate innovation and we’re helping them do that today. That requires our building out a data science team and a data science technology infrastructure. Those two components alone are going to be big pieces of the use of proceeds for us."
As for the company's previous tele-ophthalmology business, Kapoor says that while Verana will continue to serve its existing hospital customers, it will not be embarking on any additional relationships on that side of the business.