The explosion of healthcare information technology has engendered a chaotic landscape of infinite terabytes of disparate but mutually relevant data segregated in infinite silos where they’ve been underutilized and relegated to conducting transactions between providers, patients and payers. But a few years ago, Verana Health hit upon a way to optimize that data by leveraging its affiliation with the American Academy of Ophthalmology IRIS physician registry into a business model based on tearing down those information silos and crunching that data into meaningful information for its end users.
Earlier this year, Verana made moves to take that model to the next level, acquiring the technology infrastructure of PYA Analytics, a healthcare tech company with roots in the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and then scoring a fresh round of $100 million in financing. Verana also brought on board a Duke University research cardiologist as chief medical officer. Soon, the company will announce a new affiliation with a third medical society registry, company CEO Miki Kapoor tells OIS Weekly in an exclusive interview.
What Verana does is extract and package key de-identified datasets from two of the largest clinical data registries in existence, the AAO’s IRIS and the American Academy of Neurology’s Axon registries. Verana supports the operating costs of the registries. (Both AAO CEO David W. Parke II, MD, and AAN CEO Catherine Rydell sit on Verana’s board.)
Verana analyzes the data for a variety of users. Physicians use them to benchmark their own practices’ performance and to make regulatory filings. Researchers use the data analyses to help enroll patients for clinical trials and track trends and outcomes Life science companies purchase datasets to monitor their products in the clinic. Verana counts the 10 largest pharma companies in ophthalmology among its customers.
“You can think of us as a de-silo-ization technology organization and a very clinically and science-oriented company,” Mr. Kapoor said. “We take large volumes of de-identified data and curate it with technology and characterize it further through the use of statisticians, epidemiologists and clinicians.”
The infrastructure Verana acquired from PYAA consists of technology assets and the team of people that make them work, according to Mr. Kapoor.
“We intend to leverage this team’s capabilities to integrate imaging, genomic and claims data resources into our platform,” he said. “Members of that team previously led significant projects linking clinical records with images to improve early detection of diseases.”
PYAA’s broad experience in ophthalmology was a key attraction for Verana, Mr. Kapoor said.
“It gives us the ability to now take the team of people and their technology and apply it to our existing EHR platform and grow in a quicker way than if we were to build this internally ourselves,” he added.
The $100 million investment is led by current investor GV, and brings a few new investors to the table: Bain Capital Ventures, Casdin Capital, and Define Ventures.
Verana’s medical and data science teams are also getting a new leader in CMO Matthew Roe, MD, MHS, who spent two decades at Duke’s School of Medicine and its Clinical Research Institute. Dr. Roe will also work with regulatory agencies and the medical/scientific community, focusing on data quality while also expanding the applications of regulatory-grade data that are being developed from Verana’s data partnerships.
Mark Blumenkranz, MD, a co-founder of Verana and Lagunita Biosciences, another Verana investor, explained to OIS Weekly the allure Verana’s model has for investors. “What Verana is particularly involved with is real-world evidence as a complement to data from clinical trials in facilitating better patient care and therapeutics development,” he said.
“People speak of data as a natural resource that can be refined and applied to improve all aspects of healthcare and our daily lives,” Dr. Blumenkranz said. “We agree with that and think having a company that’s dedicated to having sufficient resources—human resources, capital resources, and technical resources—is critically important for quality control and accurate data insights and healthcare innovation. It’s also a very reasonable economic proposition as far as investors are concerned, as well as a boon for patients, physicians and payers.”
Verana isn’t limiting itself to ophthalmology and neurology, although the company has no plans to execute another large registry partnership this year, Mr. Kapoor said.
“But that said, over time we could, and there isn’t a limit on what types of partnerships we can do,” he told OIS Weekly. “We think it takes a strong view to look at all the de-identified data that are available out there and think about how we might link them back through the de-identified data sets that we are now stewards of through the AAO and AAN.”