As the Covid-19 pandemic raged, lockdowns and strained healthcare systems forced many clinical trials to be delayed or to seek ways to contact patients virtually. However, it was also a catalyst for the adoption of DCTs, which provide a way to bridge this gap.
In DCTs, at least some of the trial’s operations take place outside of a traditional clinical trial site. For example, participants could be screened at home or in a local care facility using digital health technologies such as glucose monitors and wearable sensors.
Compared to traditional clinical trials, DCTs can help clinical trial sponsors to digitize much of the clinical trial operations and documentation to make it easier to share and collaborate between stakeholders. They can also potentially reach more patients than traditional methods, hitting their patient enrollment goals faster and more efficiently.
The market for DCTs was worth around $7.7 billion in 2022 and is predicted to grow by 7.6% per year up to 2033, according to a report by Visiongain. Nonetheless, rolling out DCTs effectively requires advanced technology platforms that can handle all of the complexities of running a clinical trial such as logistics, data management, data sharing, patient screening, staff training, and more.
As a result, many venture capital and strategic investors are looking out for disruptive healthtech startups to meet this demand. Here are five companies that have caught their attention, bagging significant venture capital funding rounds in the last few years.
Headquarters: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Curavit is a virtual contract research organization specialized in providing cloud computing and data science expertise to handle the organization of clinical trials, including those run in a decentralized model.
Curavit’s customer base includes biotech and digital health therapeutics firms. The company’s software platform is tailored for helping its customers run DCTs that can be scaled up or down as needed. The software can help customers handle tasks including patient screening and enrolment, reporting and monitoring quickly. It can also plug into and add to other leading software used in running clinical trials.
Curavit raised $5 million in a Series A round led by Osage Venture Partners in late 2022, taking its total capital raised to more than $8 million. The company is using the proceeds to finance its research in digital therapeutics and expand its DCT expertise.
Headquarters: San Francisco, California, US
Before Curebase was established, its founder worked at an oncology software company developing software to assist with clinical trials. He then decided to create a model that improved access to clinical trials by focusing on community physicians rather than just elite clinical trial sites, forming a key starting point for Curebase.
Curebase helps startups and other companies in biotech, pharma, diagnostics and digital therapeutics to carry out DCTs without needing to use traditional CROs. In addition to tools for managing and collecting data, the company software offers a virtual research site and virtual investigators in addition to research coordinators and healthcare staff that can care for patients in a less centralized way than current clinical trial sites.
In mid-2022, Curebase bagged $40 million in a Series B round led by Industry Ventures and with participation from firms including Gilead Sciences, which aimed to expand its partnership with Curebase. The company is using the funding to make its software platform better able to take on complex site and community healthcare interfaces and global studies.
Another notable event to happen to Curebase this year was its participation in a partnership between Walgreens and Freenome to test blood-based early detection tests for cancer.
Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia, US
Florence was set up to reduce the strain on clinical trial sites, whose job is complicated by increasing numbers of companies developing therapies and the wide range of different digital solutions available, making it hard to streamline workflows.
To solve this, Florence deploys a so-called Site Enablement Platform for Clinical Trial Sponsors, which is designed to allow sponsors to search its network for clinical sites, remotely equip sites with digital workflows for the trial, streamline monitoring and documentation, and more. It is also designed with an open application programming interface (API) to work alongside other digital platforms used by different partners to streamline collaborations.
Florence raised $27 million in a Series C-1 round led by Insight Partners in mid-2022. The funding, which takes the company’s total capital raised to $114.1 million, is being used to expand Florence’s workforce in addition to improving its products and bolstering its network of clinical trial sites and sponsors.
Florence is running collaborations with companies in life sciences, with recent examples including Greenphire and WCG. The company also acquired the clinical trial solutions provider VersaTrial in September 2023.
Headquarters: El Segundo, California, US
Lightship was launched to make clinical trials more accessible and equitable for all patients, either at home, near home or in the clinic.
The so-called “virtual first” organization uses digital platforms and travelling research personnel to make it easier for pharmaceutical and biotech companies to design and carry out clinical trials. At the same time, the firm provides more patients with the choice to take part, boosting patient enrolment.
One key mission is for the company to improve the diversity of the patients that take part in clinical trials, since many approved drugs were tested in patients in clinical trials that were not representative of minority patient populations.
To help in this mission, Lightship raised a $20 million Series B round led by McKesson Ventures and Define Ventures in 2020. The firm followed up with a $40 million funding round led by Define Ventures and Brook Byers in late 2021. The startup is using the funds to drive its ongoing expansion, including internationally.
Headquarters: Boston, Massachusetts, US
Reify began its life at the John Hopkins School of Medicine as the founders worked on clinical trials during their medical training. After seeing how slow, costly and unpredictable clinical trial enrolment can be, the founders set up their own digital platforms to streamline the process.
Reify is the parent company of two DCT-focused businesses: Care Access and OneStudyTeam. Care Access is geared towards connecting clinical trial ecosystems with physicians, including those in underserved communities. With the help of mobile research teams, Care Access also helps sponsors to run DCT tasks including site orchestration, study management and facility management.
OneStudyTeam, meanwhile, is a software platform designed to connect the workflows of clinical trial stakeholders online to stop them working in silos. This then allows sponsors to build patient databases more quickly and reach their enrolment goals faster with fewer calls and emails.
Reify raised a huge $220 million Series C round in late 2021 led by Coatue Management and is using the proceeds to fuel the expansion of its business entities.