MDClone has raised $10 million from the OrbiMed Advisors LLC and Lightspeed Ventures funds, bringing the total capital raised by the company to $15 million. The company also said that it had signed its first important overseas agreement, with the Institute of Informatics at the Washington University School of Medicine.
MDClone has developed a unique system for preserving the privacy of information, while allowing any researcher to use it. The company generates a set of fictitious people with fictitious characteristics, none of whom is similar in most particulars to any of the original people; at the same time, however, all of the important synthetic relationships between them are preserved. In this way, researchers can ask the database many and varied questions, and receive answers full of information without exposing any particular person. The fact that the use of the information is synthetic makes it possible to use it for research without obtaining approval from ethics committees, thereby greatly shortening the time between asking a research question and obtaining an answer from an existing database.
The company, which was founded in 2016, already has several million dollars in revenue and agreements with a number of leading health concerns in Israel which pay the company for the right to use its technology, while allowing it to use their data, which is no less important.
"We are now solving a problem for which there was previously no solution. We solved it in a completely different way from everyone else approached the problem," says MDClone founder and CEO Ziv Ofek. Ofek was a cofounder of dbMotion, a pioneer in health systems computing in Israel and on a global scale, which was acquired by US company AllScripts for $235 million in 2013.
"Medicine has been putting data into computers for nearly three decades. Even after three decades and many, many millions of dollars, the way information is used has not changed. You have to ask for ethical permission from a Helsinki committee. Then I go to the IT department, which retrieves the information for me with their special authorizations. They are busy, however - often, only one person knows how to get this information, but he or she might not be there on that day. These are not the dynamics of today's world."
In MDClone's version, every user can ask any question immediately, with full access to the (synthetic) data, without any previous knowledge of computers, and the time it takes to obtain the answer varies from a few minutes to one hour.
Ofek says that a number of important trials have already been conducted using the software. "A researcher from Rambam Medical Center who used our data hypothesized that various types of insulin should be given to patients with different types of diabetes. A question like this usually requires a long clinical trial. She examined this with the data, and while it wasn't a controlled trial that could prove causality, she definitely found sufficient results to write an article. When she submitted the article to a medical periodical, the researcher who received it for evaluation asked, 'What would have happened had we also checked this and that?', and she was able to check it immediately." Ofek explains that the researcher did slightly change the way she prescribed insulin following the study. "We're sitting with doctors and presenting the system to them, and at the beginning of the meeting, they aren't sure what they want to ask about the data. By the end of the meeting, however, they're already bursting with innumerable ideas.
"Our clinical information should be regarded like renewable energy - the more you give, the more you get from it, and the more progress you make," Ofek continues. "I tell my employees that we will never know about everything investigated using the system, but it will unquestionably change people's lives."
Ofek tells of a case that he ran across in dbMotion, the previous company he founded, which made him decide to dedicate his life to medical technology. "Before that, my orientation was mostly technological. One day, I was demonstrating the system at a hospital when someone was suddenly brought in with a heart attack. Thanks to the computer, the medical team saw that he had suffered a stroke some time before that, and decided not to give him an anticoagulant. They explained that without the computer record, they would not have known this; they would definitely have given him an anticoagulant, and he would probably have died.
"At that moment, it was as if I was split into two people. One of the two grasped it cognitively, while the second took years to absorb it. I had the telephone number of this 56 year-old person, who had three children, who lived for many years after that. I finally called him - I didn't feel that it was my right, but in this case, it drove me forward for 15 years.
"At that time, I simply lived and breathed operating theaters. I think that entrepreneurs get some kind of compensation from the world for our crazy lives, emotional compensation, if we are really capable of seeing the person whose life we changed."
Even though MDClone does not save lives so immediately, Ofek notes that it can certainly expedite life-saving research and improve the quality of life. The company, which is located in Beer Sheva, has 28 employees. MDClone's Beer Sheva location is also very important to Ofek. "If a startup in Ramat Hahayal fails, its employees can find work in the nearby building. If a startup in Beer Sheva fails, its employees have to start traveling to Ramat Hahayal the next day, because there is no replacement," he explains.
MDClone is now breaking through overseas with signing of an agreement with the Institute for Informatics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis concerning data from the BJC Healthcare chain of hospitals. Under the agreement, the university's researchers will use MDClone's system to access synthetic information based on the data from BJC.
Today's $15 million financing round actually includes both the company's seed round from OrbiMed when it was founded and a second round with participation from both OrbiMed and Lightspeed.
"The MDClone team is among the most innovative and experienced in digital medicine in Israel - an essential combination for the success of any startup," says OrbiMed managing partner Anat Naschitz. "I believe that the team can realize the potential in the company's unique technology and translate it into substantial business success. The system can be applied to the entire medical field, and beyond it."
"The technology and vision that the company presented to us attracted our attention immediately, and after talking with the company's various customers in Israel and the US, we were convinced that it was a breakthrough," adds Lightspeed partner David Gussarsky. "MDClone offers a big step up in the way that medical information is gathered, consumed, and analyzed. For the first time, the company enables health organizations to utilize the high value of their information assets and significantly upgrade the way they provide medical service, perform medical studies, analyze new data-based technologies, and cooperate with other agencies."
MDClone said that the money raise would enable it to continue expanding in the US, and to reach additional markets.
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on February 5, 2018
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