Real-world evidence firm Aetion grabs privacy-protected synthetic data provider Replica Analytics

Real-world evidence provider Aetion is ramping up its privacy-protected data options for consumers to increase access to global health data.

Aetion, which provides real-world evidence and analytics to drug companies, payers, life sciences companies and regulatory bodies, announced Tuesday its acquisition of artificial-intelligence-powered Replica Analytics for an undisclosed sum.

Replica uses AI to generate synthetic health data based on real-world data. The synthetic data maintain the statistical properties of the original data while ensuring complete privacy protection, which will open a wealth of health information for researchers, according to the company.

"Despite the tremendous number of valuable RWD (real-world data) sources, the vast majority of the world's health data is still inaccessible to researchers because of privacy concerns," said Khaled El Emam, Ph.D., Replica Analytics co-founder and CEO, now senior vice president and general manager of Replica Analytics at Aetion. “Replica’s mission is to protect that privacy while making the world’s health data responsibly accessible for decision-grade RWE. Becoming part of Aetion and its ecosystem enables us to accelerate and expand that mission by deploying our technology with more data sources and in new applications.”

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Data options with complete privacy assurance are especially critical to rare disease and specialty research, the companies said.

Replica’s technology will integrate with the Aetion Evidence Platform to bolster Aetion’s data offerings. The tech complies with national standards like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act as well as international laws like the General Data Protection Regulation in Europe.

Aetion raked in $110 million in a series C round last May to power its global expansion.

“Replica enhances Aetion’s technology portfolio to open access to previously inaccessible RWD,” said Jeremy Rassen, Sc.D., co-founder and president of Aetion. “Our shared belief in rooting technology innovation in scientific rigor assures that together Replica and Aetion will accelerate the impact of RWE on improving access to higher quality, more affordable healthcare, globally.”

Aetion was also selected as one of Fierce Healthcare’s Fierce 15 award winners in 2021.

The company’s real-world evidence model has attracted increased attention in the last year, including from federal agencies, as researchers confront flaws in COVID-19 data.

In October, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it had contracted with Aetion to use the company’s platform to assess inpatient COVID-19 treatments.

The company has announced multiple other collaborations in the last year, including partnerships with the European Medicines Agency, England’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and Paris-based AI solutions company Quinten Health.

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Real-world evidence is often lauded by its advocates as a more equitable approach to research.

Dan Riskin, M.D., founder and CEO of real-world evidence firm Verantos, told Fierce Healthcare in December that real-world evidence may better reflect the effects of treatments on every population, potentially offering a more holistic view than a clinical trial can provide.

The FDA published draft guidance in September on the use of real-world evidence for regulatory decision-making, which Riskin applauded.

“If we create a standard for what is good—even if it’s really hard to do—then everyone in this industry will start to create good evidence,” Riskin said.