Hollywood Hills West-based Topography Health Inc., which has a program to help community physicians set up clinical trials, announced its official launch on Jan. 19 after raising $21.5 million in a Series A funding round.
Topography Health aims to fill a gap in the formation of clinical trials. Currently, most clinical trials are established by pharmaceutical companies seeking Food and Drug Administration approval for their drug candidates and by major universities and medical centers seeking to further their medical research. In some cases, major physician practices work with pharmaceutical companies to set up their own clinical trials for promising therapies that come to their attention.
But, according to Topography Health Chief Executive Alexander Saint-Amand,
very few independent community physician practices have the wherewithal to set up clinical trials. And this, he said, impedes the ability of patients to obtain experimental therapies for otherwise untreatable diseases or conditions.
“The simple fact is that most patients do not have access to clinical trials,” Saint-Amand said. “Their physician or specialist may have just diagnosed them with a condition that has no approved therapies and then has to tell them that they are on their own when it comes to finding that experimental therapy.”
Amand has plenty of experience consulting for physicians. In his previous post as chief executive of New York consulting firm Gerson Lehrman Group, he helped develop a network of 170,000 physicians. After encountering difficulties enrolling his own mother in a clinical trial, Amand teamed up with energy and clean technology industry veteran Andrew Kirchner and with finance executive Mac Parish to found Topography Health in 2020.
With $6 million in initial seed funding, Topography Health set up a business platform that aims to be a one-stop for physicians who want to set up and run their own clinical trial programs. This includes helping medical practices better understand their patient populations, recommending which studies have high odds of uptake and impact, recruiting patients, and hiring/managing research staff. The company works with pharmaceutical industry and other sponsors to provide reimbursements and other funding for these clinical trials.
Saint-Amand said a key hurdle for physicians is obtaining the hundreds of thousands of dollars necessary to set up clinical trial infrastructure. Pharmaceutical companies, he said, tend to use hospitals or major physician networks for their trials, leaving smaller medical practices out of the mix.
This funding round for Topography Health was led by Bain Capital Ventures. The company plans to use the funds from its most recent $21.5 million fundraise to be able to loan money to a much broader set of physician practices for initial set up of clinical trials. That money would be repaid by pharmaceutical companies either as the clinical trial is running or after it concludes.
For the pharmaceutical companies, Saint-Amand said that bringing small physician practices to their attention helps to diversify the patient base for clinical trials.
“By collaborating with private practice physicians and equipping them to be clinical investigators, we can expand patient data sets, treat a wider range of chronic or life-threatening conditions, and give more Americans access to the healthcare and therapies they deserve,” he said.
Prior to its official launch last month, Saint-Amand said Topography Health had signed up between five and 10 physician practices to be included in a pilot program.
The company plans to use the funds from its most recent $21.5 million fundraise to be able to loan money to a much broader set of physician practices for initial set up of clinical trials. That money would be repaid by pharmaceutical companies either as the clinical trial is running or after it concludes.
This funding round for Topography Health was led by Bain Capital Ventures – an affiliate of Boston-based Bain Capital and also included a previous investor, Menlo Park venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Several angel investors also participated in the funding round, including Tom Lee, founder of San Francisco-based 1Life Healthcare Inc. (better known as One Medical) and Spencer Rascoff, co-founder of Seattle-based Zillow Group Inc.