Inato, a Paris-based startup focusing on matching clinical research sponsors with the optimal research site, and hopefully in the process revamping clinical trial enrollment just secured $14 million in Series A funding from investors, including prior funders Serena and Fly Ventures. They have a big challenge ahead but if the technology is superior they have a fighting chance to secure enough business to sell to a CRO.
In any one region worldwide, only a small percentage of physciains have actually converted to also conduct clinical research. Regardless of continent, the dearth of clinical site investigators introduces considerable challenges, impeding the acceleration of drug development. What if there was another way? Well, perhaps with the advent Inato, a platform that supports biopharma sponsors during site selection process, serving as a kind of sponsor and site match maker.
“Five percent of the world’s research sites are conducting the vast majority of today’s clinical trials. When you consider that the average cost of bringing a drug to market is around $2 billion, with about two-thirds of those costs tied to clinical trials, it’s clear there’s an urgent need for greater efficiency,” Kourosh Davarpanah, CEO and cofounder of Inato, said in a statement.
Most tools targeting this space fall short of complex algorithmic permutations necessary when considering all of the different types of studies, therapeutic areas and factors, not to mention sponsor protocols, that can account for differences in performance.
Inato’s technology platform helps biopharma sponsors select the optimal site for their clinical studies. By incorporating logistical data points such as patient access, site staff capacity, doctor interest and ongoing competition to highlight the in-network partner sites where an investigation is more probable to pick up the most traction among patients. The goal: streamline study design and lower costs when replacing a subpar site.
According to a recent company press release, the company’s technology platform has been ustilized in more than 50 clinical trials across over 2,000 research sites. Moreover, as part of the business mode (possibly for offering at lower price), research sites use the cloud-based system, which enables the system owner to deidentify and report on site performance metrics such as study start up cycle time.
Founded in 2015 by Kourosh Davarpanah and Jean David-Zeitoun, the company employs between 25 to 40 people. Inato doesn’t share much information on their website—no published clients, partnerships nor case studies but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t have them.
The system appears to use some form of machine learning-based AI as well as big data, NoSQL platforms to continuously accumulate and build on investigator site performance data.
Investors include Fly Ventures, Kima Ventures and Serena Capital.
Market Space Tricky for Stand-alone
Inato plays in a tough space. Why? Because site selection services, whether emphasizing investigator site performance in the realm of study start-up cycle times to patient recruitment rates, is most often outsourced to contract research organizations (CROs) that make the process part of their proprietary offering—often bundled in with all sorts of other services from monitoring to safety services. That’s not to say that Inato couldn’t do direct deals with CROs—they note that they are—but CROs don’t have the margins of the big sponsor organizations and often will seek deals that don’t pay until there are deals on the table with big pharma. They are overall tougher to do business with.
Moreover, a range of ventures attacked this space before with mixed success. For example, DrugDev entered the market with a lot of fanfare in 2008 with a strikingly similar model. They signed up thousands of investigator sites and were even selected by the big pharma club “Transcelerate” as their partner for their clinical investigator platform project. Furthermore, DrugDev secure a line of credit worth $50 million with Invesco. At the end of the day, they had trouble growing organically and in 2013 made a purchase of site payments venture CFS Clinical. But the model, of matching site performance requirements with sponsors, didn’t belong as a standalone and ultimately QuintilesIMS (now IQVIA) gobbled them up in 2017.
Inato looks to have designed an interesting, AI-inspired clinical investigator site selection and tracking system. A notoriously difficult market to conquer, the landscape is dominated by CROs with their proprietary and mostly bundled offerings—although some of these tools were picked up in acquisitions such as DrugDev/IQVIA. Most tools fall short of complex algorithmic permutations necessary when considering all of the different types of studies, therapeutic areas and factors that can account for differences in performance. If Inato is successful, they will become part of a CRO as well.