GV-backed startup inks deal with urology docs to advance new treatments

Startup Verana Health has inked a deal with a third medical association to analyze the medical records of millions of patients and help doctors take a data-driven approach to treating disease.

In a collaboration with the American Urological Association (AUA), Verana Health will be able to mine de-identified data from the organization's clinical data registry. The registry features clinical data from more than 6.3 million unique patients and 37.8 million visits, including 10% of the nation’s prostate cancer patients.

The San Francisco-based startup—which is backed by GV, formerly known as Google Ventures—partners with medical associations to analyze large data sets of de-identified patient data in eye diseases, neurology and now urology. This information can accelerate the development of drugs, medical devices and new treatments, the company said.

The company's platform started with eye care, incorporating electronic health record (EHR) data from the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s IRIS patient registry—which features more than 72 million unique patients in its database, 343 million visits and billions of data points—to improve ophthalmic patient care.

In 2019, Verana Health struck a similar agreement with the American Academy of Neurology (AAN). AAN's data registry holds clinical data from 2.5 million unique patients and 13 million patient visits.

As a data analytics company, Verana Health can analyze these large data sets to advance medical research and patient care. The company uses analytics to modernize how medical associations use their specialty data registries for research and clinical trials, the company said.

Verana plans to expand into additional therapeutic categories as well as to integrate imaging, genomic and claims data sources, according to CEO Miki Kapoor.

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The company provides tools for physicians to track factors that lead to better outcomes for patients and to get a snapshot of how their practices are performing.

For AUA, the partnership will help facilitate the discovery of leading-edge treatment options and improve outcomes for the millions of people affected by prostate cancer, bladder cancer and other urologic diseases, said David Penson, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Urology at Vanderbilt University and chair of the AUA Science and Quality Council.

"It’s important to collect data, find insights, and do the best for our patients by providing high-quality care and bringing new drugs and new therapeutics to patients. The problem is, as physicians, we're not experts in managing data. That’s why the relationship with Verana is important," Penson said.

Physicians can use the data to review patient outcomes based on the therapeutic or service provided and compare those outcomes to care guidelines and also benchmark against other specialty practices.

For example, urologists can use the data to determine whether they are using a particular treatment option more or less often than compared to their peers when treating prostate cancer, Penson said.

The collaboration with Verana will enable urologists to better communicate with patients about treatment options for conditions like prostate or bladder cancer by providing a nearly real-time look at how large groups of patients are responding to treatment, the company said.

Insights from the AUA's data registry also will help physicians look at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on gaps in patients' care, Penson said.

"We can look at specific cancers and whether during that four-month gap when that patient wasn't seeing a doctor, did that impact the progression of that cancer. That's a powerful example of the kind of work we can do with this data," he said.

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Previously known as tele-ophthalmology company DigiSight Technologies, Verana Health pivoted in 2018 to focus on data analytics.

Two years ago, the company landed a $30 million series C financing round led by GV with participation from investors including Byers, Biomatics Capital, GE Ventures and Lagunita Biosciences.

In February, the startup scored a $100 million funding round, also led by GV, with participation from new investors Bain Capital Ventures, Casdin Capital and Define Ventures.

Earlier this year, Verana bought data analytics company PYA Analytics.

Investors see the value of Verana Health's data-driven approach to providing clinical insights and advancing research, said Kapoor.

"There is a tremendous amount of data now available and with that data, we can put an enormous amount of investment behind fully understanding it. It takes time and effort to pull that data out of EHRs, clean it up, curate it, and then analyze it," he said. "I think investors looked at us and said 'Here is an organization that's five years ahead with this and having success working with medical societies.'"