Startup Manifold secures $15M for its AI-based clinical research platform

Initially founded as an AI lab in 2016, startup Manifold is using its AI expertise to modernize the tech infrastructure of clinical research organizations to help accelerate cancer studies.

Manifold developed an AI-based platform that helps reduce administrative burden for cancer centers and streamlines the manual workflows of clinical research study and data management. This helps research teams speed up the time to insights from months to minutes, according to the company.

The startup aims to modernize researchers' workflows and move away from legacy technology like Excel spreadsheets and other data collection solutions.

The AI lab launched in 2016 at a time of exciting research advances in AI and machine learning, noted Vinay Seth Mohta, CEO and co-founder of Manifold. But, the team recognized that healthcare organizations struggled to build a solid data and AI technology foundation.

In 2022, Manifold shifted to building a software platform for clinical research.

"We realized there is something we can do to bring better care, better medicine and better clinical research to a lot more people," Mohta said in an interview. "As we worked with healthcare organizations, we started to see some of the challenges they had with modern technology and data foundations. We saw a real opportunity to bring that technology to more organizations."

The startup, founded by former Kyruus executives, secured $15 million in series A funding to build out partnerships with healthcare organizations. The funding round was led by TQ Ventures. New investors Calibrate Ventures and SK Ventures also participated in the round. The startup also has attracted notable founders and CEOs including healthcare leader Dr. Sachin H. Jain and existing investors including TTCER Partners. 

Manifold is working with cancer centers and rare disease organizations to provide a purpose-built tech infrastructure platform. 

Early adopters include Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center and Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. Manifold plans to user the series A funding to grow its partnerships with cancer centers and other healthcare organizations and invest in R&D to build out more capabilities and features, Mohta said.

While scientific research has advanced to incorporate state-of-the-art techniques, the technology infrastructure has not kept pace, Mohta said.

"You go to some of these clinical research scientists' labs, and, on the one hand, they're doing this super cutting-edge gene editing or they're rewriting DNA and putting it back in your body. On the other hand, if you were to ask that researcher a question, which would seem relatively simple, something like, 'How many breast cancer patients came through your organization last year that had a BRCA2 mutation, common gene mutation associated with breast cancer, that would likely take months to answer and a lot of manual work, a lot of analysts' time," he said.

Mohta added, "The manual processes and these legacy tools, and all of these different digital silos that we saw in these organizations was the motivation to build a platform to streamline these workflows and the data."

He refers to Manifold as a "first-of-its-kind" platform that provides an end-to-end solution with an AI technology foundation for research organizations.

"Starting from data collection with enrolling and engaging participants to then curating and harmonizing longitudinal patient data to then making it easier to find and analyze that data about patients is a big part of the platform. The last piece is multi-institution collaborations. There's a lot of collaboration in clinical research, and there's a lot of friction to that collaboration, so we enable organizations to do that in one platform," Mohta said.

Manifold screenshot of software product
Manifold's tech platform (Manifold)

Early collaborations have shown some promising results. One research organization unified over 11 terabytes of multimodal data—which spans 1.5 million patients—into a single platform, streamlining study and data operations and increasing research output.

The amount of healthcare data continues to grow and becomes more complex as research organizations access more data from electronic health records to genetic sequencing to imaging. Researchers lose time and resources connecting patient data from these disparate systems into a unified patient view.

Manifold executives say the company's technology enables researchers to do more high-impact research and collaborations with fewer resources.

The technology is a "game-changer" for cancer research organizations, attests Anna Maria Storniolo, M.D., medical director, biospecimen collection and banking core at IU Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center.

With Manifold's platform, a research request can be completed in minutes rather than weeks, she said. 'It just blew my mind," Storniolo said. IU Cancer Center's partnership with Manifold will enable Strorniolo's team to respond to research to far more research requests with less manual effort and cost, she noted.

It cannot be understated how much time and manual effort is required to respond to research requests using legacy systems. Many cancer research centers are still in the "Excel spreadsheet era," she noted. 

Storniolo also said that the technology is user-friendly and requires minimal training: "It's the Apple of data solutions," she said.

Manifold's bold vision is to make it "ten times faster and one-tenth the cost" to conduct modern research studies.

The company's AI technology foundation can accelerate research studies. 'It just changes entirely the kinds of capabilities you have available to you, we think of it almost like this unlock," Mohta said. "Also, if you're building a bespoke solution, that will take a year or two years to build something out. Whereas, we could have something live for our customers within three months."

The software also creates more efficiencies within research workflows which helps to reduce costs, he noted.

AI technology is evolving rapidly and Manifold sees opportunities to continue to innovate with AI, leaning on the team's deep expertise in AI and ML as well as engineering.

"We're fully expecting that even as we're bringing in these new capabilities, there's going to be even more advanced models available. I think that's a bit of a wild card around how some of those technologies can be applied for accelerating data curation and accelerating data analysis," Mohta said. "One of the places we've seen AI play a compelling role is also making some of this data readily available to clinical researchers and epidemiologists who are people who know their domain super well, but they don't write code and they want to be able to interact with this data. We're pretty excited about some of the product capabilities that will become feasible in the next year and a half."

"Manifold is tackling new challenges created by big data increasingly available about every patient," said Andrew Marks, co-founder and managing partner at TQ Ventures, one of Manifold's investors. "In doing that, they are greatly improving productivity in clinical research today and also laying the groundwork for an industry cloud for personalized medicine in the future."