Techcrunch reports on clinical technology software vendor Teckro the and announcement of their latest investment round of $25 million Series C funding. This brings the total for the Irish company to $43 million. The funding round was led by Northpond Ventures with participation from Founders Fund, Sands Capital Ventures, Bill Maris’ Section 32 venture fund and Borealis Ventures.
Founded by the ex-Firecrest team—brothers’ Gary and Nigel Hughes and Jacek Skrzypiec—this group is quite savvy in the clinical trials technology space. A TrialSite News’ team member knows of them and can attest they are a sophisticated group with deep subject matter expertise in clinical trials space. With Firecrest, the team built arguably one of the most sophisticated investigator start-up and training solutions in the industry. Investigators raved about Firecrest which was ultimately acquired by Irish CRO ICON. The founding crew learned a lot during that process. They tended to be medical practitioners and subject matter experts more than shrewd businessmen at that time.
Firecrest was known for its deep, rich and robust investigator training interfaces and functionality. Those in clinical research know a well-trained investigator has a higher probability of producing greater output. They had numerous customers during the Firecrest days, but this we believe there were challenges with the P&L—at least this is what we pieced together years ago. Overall, the team produced a considerable success story with the ICON sale.
Undoubtedly, the Hughes brothers and Skrzypiec got the entrepreneurial bug again and have started all over again. They have learned a lot since Firecrest. Founded in 2015, they reported to Techcrunch that they have users in more than 80 countries. Employing over 100 in both Ireland and Nashville, Tennessee, the venture is addressing the fact that much of “the industry still relies heavily on paper, working off retrospective data, and there is still an over-reliance on sending CRAs to busy research sites” reports Teckro co-founder and CEO Gary Hughes.
A visit to their website yields little product information, so they clearly seek to maintain a certain level of stealth in their operation—even three years into the launch. In previous articles and press releases, various Teckro principles discussed the common theme of too much paper, dependence on retrospective data, etc. They do note that the administrative burden of running a trial on top of normal patient workload has been a barrier for some physician offices—especially community sites that typically don’t get involved with clinical research. A key premise in the Teckro offering, TrialSite News suspects, is that they are developing research site-centric software to make it easier for them to manage a clinical trial—freeing up time to focus on a major obstacle in clinical research—patient recruitment.
This would make sense. Firecrest was designed to ramp up sites with compelling protocol training. The Hughes brothers and Skrzpiec did a fantastic job on the product. However, building a business focusing on the clinical research site represents a difficult journey. First, research sites are quite fragmented, tend to be frugal and require lengthy sales cycles; just like global pharmaceutical sponsors do—but for a fraction of the total amount. Second, large academic medical centers have developed sophisticated clinical research systems and tools-making that subsegment more difficult to penetrate. The academic medical centers may not represent such a fast-growing software solution market. They like to control their technology stack. However, there are many commercial research sites in the U.S. and beyond. Third, many of them are under $20 million in sales and do not spend much on software and IT/IS systems. Fourth, targeting research sites has become so popular is has become almost like a sport, and represents an incredibly crowded space. Competition comes from multiple angles including:
- Clinical trial management systems targeting research sites
- Sponsor-side technologies such as portals, EDC, and eTMF seeking to connect and upsell sites
- Specialized site document and trial master file offerings
- Niche and custom applications developed by IT vendors that work closely with sites
Five, research sites are undergoing, in some cases, fundamental transformation including infusions of private equity into consolidated commercial sites. TrialSite News has authored a few articles on this topic. Opening the door for Teckro, ongoing churn throughout the research site market could afford them new opportunity as sites merge or engage in acquisitions they may seek new approaches to streamline clinical trial operations. If the past is any indicator of the future, the Hughes brothers and Mr. Skrzypiec will produce high quality software.