San Francisco-based Mendel.ai, a startup that is developing an artificial intelligence-powered platform to match people with cancer to clinical trials, has raised $2 million in seed funding from DCM Ventures, BootstrapLabs, Indie Bio, LaunchCapital and SOSV. Medel.ai will use the capital to forge partnerships with hospitals and cancer genomics companies to bring the system into use.
For $99, Mendel.ai will process an unlimited number of medical records for three months to match patients with potential clinical trials. Prospective trial participants can either upload records onto Mendel.ai’s platform or give their doctors permission to share documents directly with the company. From there, a natural language processing algorithm combs through clinicaltrials.gov data to compare to an individual’s medical record and responds with a list of personalized matches. During the course of a user’s experience on the Mendel.ai platform, the system continuously updates matches, and patients can receive in-app requests to join trials. To improve the power of the platform immediately, Mendel.ai recommends patients undergo DNA testing.
The company, named for the founder of modern genetics science Gregor Mendel, was created out of the frustration over inefficient clinical trial matching. After losing his aunt to cancer and later finding out she could have been connected with a nearby and potentially live-saving clinical trial, Mendel.ai CEO Dr. Karim Galil set out to improve the recruitment process. As it stands, the process is besieged by mountains of data and too little time for both physicians and patients. Doctors can’t keep up with all the new clinical trial data as it comes out, and patients can be overwhelmed with selecting a trial from vast databases that work with keywords and typically spit out hundreds of possible matches, yet unfiltered for many eligibility factors.
“A lung cancer patient, for example, might find 500 potential trials on clinicaltrials.gov, each of which has a unique, exhaustive list of eligibility criteria that must be read and assessed,” Galil told TechCrunch. “As this pool of trials changes each week, it is humanly impossible to keep track of all good matches.”
Digital innovation activity in the clinical trials arena has been heating up as of late. There are now several companies offering different tools to improve study design, remote monitoring capabilities and patient recruitment and retention in clinical trials, and many are just getting off the ground.
Just last week, the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative released new endpoint recommendations focused on the use of mobile technology in clinical trials. And in the past six months, there has been a slew of seed and early stage funding for companies innovating in the space. Mobile data capture-focused Clinical Research IO raised $1.6 million January. In March, Philadelphia-based VitalTrax raised $150,000 in seed funding to build out software to improve patient engagement in clinical trials. Medidata, a New York City-based company that offers cloud storage and data analytics services for clinical trials, announced in April its plans to acquire Mytrus, a clinical trial technology company focused on patient-focused electronic informed consent and remote trials. Also in April, remote clinical trial company Science 37 raised $29 million to move forward with technology that allows patients to participate in trials from their homes.
But while others are focusing on improving data collection quality or study efficiency, the approach of Mendel.ai is on-par with the likes of much larger companies like IBM Watson, which is also experimenting with artificial intelligence to match patients with clinical trials. In the beginning of June, IBM Watson shared data from a Novartis-sponsored pilot, wherein Watson processed data from 2,620 lung and breast cancer patients and was able to cut the time needed to screen for clinical trials by nearly 80 percent.
For Mendel.ai, the task at hand is to integrate with health organizations and cancer genomics centers. Currently, the company is working with the Comprehensive Blood & Cancer Center in Bakersfield, California to enable the center’s doctors to match their patients with trials. And while its still early days, Galil told TechCrunch the company wants to see Mendel.ai go head-to-head with IBM Watson.