The concept of direct-to-patient (DTP) clinical trials has been around for years but use of the model has only taken off as technological advances have mitigated some of the challenges of safely getting drugs to subjects’ homes and enabled the remote collection of data.
Established distribution and clinical research service providers have added DTP capabilities to cater for demand for the model among drug developers, which see the approach as a way to improve the recruitment and retention of study subjects. However, those established companies also face rising competition from startups specialized in DTP services.
Lightship is such a startup. To date, Lightship has revealed little about its operation, stating little more than a claim that it is “the premier provider of enterprise level, direct-to-patient clinical trial solutions” and engages patients at home.
Those solutions span from patient recruitment through to study completion, positioning Lightship to help sponsors reduce some of the cost and bottlenecks associated with site-based clinical trials.
Whatever Lightship is working on has shown enough promise to attract investors and clinical trial executives alike. McKesson Ventures and Define Ventures led the $20m (€18.2m) Series B financing round, with support from Khosla Ventures, Brook Byers and Marc Benioff.
In conjunction with the financing, Lightship revealed it has appointed David MacMurchy, a former EVP at PRA Health Sciences, as CEO. Tom Pike, the former CEO of Quintiles, has come on board as executive chairman.
The little information available about Lightship suggests it operates in a similar DTP space to Science 37, the virtual trials startup that raised more than $100m and landed deals with companies including Sanofi before making headlines for the wrong reasons. Last year, Science 37 was sued by its co-founders and former senior executives Noah Craft and Belinda Tan.
A look at the resumes of the people working at Lightship reinforces the impression that it is moving in on Science 37’s turf.
Currently, half of the 16 people who list Lightship as their employer on LinkedIn previously worked at Science 37, with many of them moving between the two service providers in recent months. The list of ex-Science 37 employees working at Lightship include the latter company’s co-founder Samantha Eells and chief clinical and experience officer Bardia Akbari.