Startup Whiz Kid Vivek Ramaswamy Does it Again, Launches Bay Area Firm to Revolutionize Clinical Trials

Published: Sep 21, 2017

Startup Whiz Kid Vivek Ramaswamy Does it Again, Launches Bay Area Firm to Revolutionize Clinical Trials September 20, 2017
By Mark Terry, Breaking News Staff

Startup guru Vivek Ramaswamy is at it again. The 31-year-old former hedge-fund manager who has launched a string of biotech companies under his Roivant Sciences umbrella company, just launched Datavant, a company that will utilize artificial intelligence (AI) to improve clinical trials.

The new company will bed helmed by Travis May, co-founder and chief executive officer of LiveRamp, which Roivant describes as “an identity resolution provider offering data onboarding.” If that sounds like gibberish, its website isn’t much clearer. It appears that the company offers its clients and partners access to data across their ecosystem which is used for marketing analysis.

“As a technologist looking at the biopharma industry, it’s surprising and disconcerting how little data is shared as compared to other industries,” May said in a statement. “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.”

Likely because it’s often proprietary intellectual property. May and Datavant either believe they have a way around that, or will make do with available data. Potentially they will offer their services to various companies.

Datavant, which was incubated by Roivant, has already pulled together data from 85 different datasets made up of over 20 million patient visits. The company expects to analyze and collate the data using AI with the intention of informing the design and operations of clinical trials, arguing that this will improve the odds of success and shorten the time to market. All while cutting the costs of clinical trials.

Datavant is launching with funding led by Roivant and “a significant personal investment from Mr. May.”

Roivant recently wrapped a $1.1 billion equity investment led by the SoftBank Vision Fund, with Founders Fund participating.

“We are impressed by Roivant’s bold vision for transforming healthcare, and see Datavant as an integral part of that vision,” said Brian Singerman, a Founders Fund partner, in a statement. “Few sectors need innovation more than healthcare and Datavant is uniquely positioned to have a significant impact on the way medicines are developed across the industry.”

The fledgling company’s scientific and data science advisory board includes: Daniel Burch, chief medical officer of PPD Biotech; Emiko Higashi, founder and managing director of Tohmon Capital Partners; Min Li, senior vice president and head of Neurosciences R&D at GlaxoSmithKline ; Andrew Lo, Charles E and Susan T Harris Professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management; Atul Pande, former senior vice president, head of Neurosciences R&D at GlaxoSmithKline; Eric Perakslis, senior vice president, R&D Informatics at Takeda Pharmaceuticals ; Frank Rockhold, professor of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics at the Duke Clinical Research Institute; and Bryan Spielman, former executive vice president at Medidata.

“Despite the best efforts of consortia and data sharing initiatives, clinical trial data remains under-optimized today, reducing the odds of success for clinical trials and adding significant cost to the drug development process,” said Eric Perakslis in a statement. “I’m excited by Datavant’s approach to using sophisticated analytics and AI to unlock the potential of patient-level data, and believe it can ultimately improve the drug development process and bring value to patients.”

With a great deal of charm and energy, as well as $400 million, Ramaswamy is able to bring in a lot of enthusiastic investors, even if his companies are largely built on hopes and dreams. The first big test is upcoming, however. Axovant Sciences is focused on Alzheimer’s disease. Founded in 2014, the company acquired its lead product, initepirdine, for mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease for $5 million from GlaxoSmithKline. The drug showed a favorable safety and tolerability profile, and showed immediate and sustained efficacy over placebo in a Phase IIb trial.

Axovant’s MINDSET clinical trial is expected to report out on the drug by the end of this month. The drug was being evaluated in 1,315 patients on a stable background therapy of donepezil (Aricept). If successful, then all bets are off and Ramaswamy will undoubtedly be hailed as a genius. If it fails, Axovant will be in the company of hundreds of others who have taken a swing at Alzheimer’s disease and struck out.

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