Verana Health announced, earlier this month, the acquisition of PYA Analytics and the closing of a $100 million funding round to further expand operations leading to the development of drugs and medical devices.
Healthcare biotech companies are focusing either on using AI to better use and understand patient data – which is the case of Verana – or to try and develop novel targeted treatments for deadly diseases, such as cancer. Funding for both types of companies continues to pour in. After a strong performance in 2018, global venture capital funding for digital health companies hit $5.1 billion in the first half of last year, compared to $4.9 billion in 2018, the highest funding has ever been, according to a new report.
GV, the venture fund arm of Google parent company Alphabet, formerly known as Google Ventures, was the lead investor. New investors participating in the round, included Bain Capital Ventures, Casdin Capital and Define Ventures. Existing investors also participated, according to a press release. GV has shown interest in the healthcare space for several years by being an active investor, backing consumer, enterprise, life science, and health technology companies. It is notable that GV was an investor in One Medical, a membership-based primary care provider that recently launched an initial public offering on the Nasdaq.
Verana Health recently acquired PYA Analytics (PYAA), a Knoxville, Tennessee-based large-scale architecture solutions company. The company was founded in 2013 by scientists and engineers from the largest multi-program science and technology lab in the U.S., Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Members of PYAA have led projects that include the linking of clinical records with images to improve early detection, the utilization of satellite images with other data sources to inform geospatial analysis, and early members of the Human Genome Project. The data scientists, engineers, and data architects joined through the acquisition will greatly diversify and expand the scope of Verana’s capabilities.
“PYA Analytics is a data science company that develops state-of-the-art products for data linking and analysis,” said Dr. Brian Worley, Co-founder and CEO of PYA Analytics. “We are thrilled to join Verana to enrich these extraordinary clinical databases and find answers to some of the most pressing challenges in medicine.” The PYAA team will remain in Knoxville, and Verana plans to hire and grow the office in the coming months. The company also intends to further scale its San Francisco headquarters and New York office in the coming year.
Using anonymized HER data, Verana curates and analyzes the information for medical research and patient care in ophthalmic and neurologic diseases. It also gives providers analytics for patient care. For instance, one of its tools provides doctors with aggregated information on physician practice trends, and another enables identifying patients in their practice who might be eligible for clinical trials. Verana also works with researchers and life science companies 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,” Krishna Yeshwant, MD, general partner at GV, said in the announcement. “Under the leadership of its strong management team, Verana continues to redefine how we approach medical research.”
The San Francisco-based firm pairs with pharmaceutical companies and doctors to put data insights to work during research trials, and plans further expansions into imaging, genomic and claims data sources.
Verana currently has partnerships with partners with two medical associations to analyze large registries of anonymized patient data in eye disease and neurology, information the company claims could speed up the development of drugs and medical devices.
Verana’s platform aggregates regulatory-grade datasets through its partnership with two of the largest clinical databases in medicine, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) IRIS® Registry, and the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Axon Registry®. The company curates and analyzes this de-identified EHR-derived data to advance medical research and patient care in the areas of ophthalmic and neurologic diseases.
“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,” said Miki Kapoor, CEO of the Verana Health. “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.”