Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany Enters Field of Big Data With Joint Venture With Palantir Technologies

doctor in lab coat using tablet, images of data and graphs superimposed over the top

Germany’s pharma giant Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and Silicon Valley data analytics company Palantir Technologies are forming a joint venture called Syntropy. Syntropy will be based in Boston and will focus on cancer data analytics tools.

Syntropy will be built on Palantir’s Foundry platform. This technology platform allows users to structure and analyze information from disparate sources will safeguarding data privacy. It expects to develop technology that will allow researchers to share data with both transparency and privacy. Syntropy will combine Palantir’s Foundry with Merck’s industry expertise across life science.

No financial terms were disclosed other than to say that each partner would hold a 50 percent stake.

There have been several similar investments in the biopharma space in the last year. Roche acquired Flatiron Health in February 2018 for $1.9 billion. Bristol-Myers Squibb subsequently expanded an agreement with Flatiron for three years. Then Roche acquired genomic profiling company Foundation Medicine for $2.4 billion.

Roivant Sciences launched Datavant in late 2018, whose goal is to pull data from a variety of different datasets to inform the development and design of clinical trials. Datavant is helmed by Travis May, co-founder and chief executive officer of LiveRamp.

In a statement at the time, May said, “As a technologist looking at the biopharma industry, it’s surprising and disconcerting how little data is shared as compared to other industries. Biopharmaceutical data is siloed across big pharma companies, universities, healthcare consortia, CROs, research groups, hospital systems, regulatory bodies, patient registries, genomics companies, and EMRs. There is tremendous potential to apply analytics to this data more effectively, improve drug development, and ultimately save lives.”

And companies are teaming up with consumer-based genomics company to gain access to the health-related data of millions of people. An example is GlaxoSmithKline’s partnership with 23andMe and Google/Alphabet’s Calico Life Sciences partnering with AncestryDNA.

Roche acquired Foundation and Flatiron with the goal of harnessing real-life data from cancer units. Merck and Palantir’s venture is focused on clinical trial data and early-stage research.

Syntropy is not expected to buy or sell data. “Our customers will pay a license fee for software, enabling them to aggregate and analyze data from highly disparate sources,” Stefan Oschmann, Merck’s chief executive officer, told Reuters.

Palantir is perhaps best known for helping the U.S. government find al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. It is involved in confidential work for U.S. defense and intelligence agencies. Private customers include Airbus. It was formed in 2003 by a consortium of technology entrepreneurs, including PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.

“When we choose partners, be it in government or the private sector, we are on their side and want to grow a business together and not with five others,” stated Alexander Karp, Palantir’s co-founder and chief executive officer. “Also in this case, we have no intention to handle it any differently.”

In a statement, Oschmann said, “The success of science hinges on the ability to act on insights. We expect Syntropy to facilitate collaboration within the global scientific community, in order to drive breakthrough innovation in cancer research.”

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