The Singapore-based startup Oncoshot has raised an undisclosed amount in a pre-Series A round to drive the expansion of its artificial intelligence (AI)-driven clinical trial enrolment technology into Australia and India.
The round, led by the tech-focused venture capital firm MassMutual Ventures, allows Oncoshot to pursue its mission of eliminating barriers to the recruitment of patients with cancer to clinical trials in the Asia-Pacific region.
For a long time, Asia-Pacific has been central for meeting the demand for clinical trials in the biotech and pharma industry. Between 2017 and 2021, Asia-Pacific hosted more than 50% of the world’s clinical trials. However, inefficiencies in cancer clinical trials mean that companies lose an average of $35 billion per year worldwide. For example, many trials narrowly accept patients at a specific stage of cancer or with a certain biomarker; by the time a patient moves through the recruitment process, their cancers may have progressed to the point where they cease being eligible.
Oncoshot’s solution to this problem is to speed up the patient recruitment process. The firm uses AI to mine clinical trial databases and tidy up public eligibility criteria so that they are easily searchable on its database. Using Oncoshot’s AI-driven platform, clinical trial sponsors can match their trial criteria with the anonymized medical data of patients in participating health centers in minutes compared to the weeks it can take using current tools.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Oncoshot currently has a network of 40 hospitals, 10 pharmaceutical firms and CROs, over 1,000 clinical trials and more than 100,000 patients with cancer. With the new cash in hand, Oncoshot aims to expand further into Australia and India, where there are plans to establish nationwide clinical trial ecosystems.
“There is great value in creating a health insights exchange platform that can bring different clinical trial stakeholders together,” said Anvesh Ramineni, managing director at MassMutual Ventures. “The Oncoshot solution addresses the frustrations faced by both industry and clinical players in terms of patient recruitment. The fact that this company has gained such traction with multiple hospitals highlights this need.”
Some of the advantages of Oncoshot’s system for trial sponsors include the rapid updating of its records and the live reporting when a patient is enrolled in their trial. Before using a particular trial site, firms can also quickly assess from population data whether a particular site is feasible for their trial before using the center.
In return, hospitals and medical centers in Oncoshot’s federated ecosystem can liaise with sponsors and organize clinical trials with less paperwork involved than normal. Additionally, they have the ability to carry out data analyses on site, and ensure patient data never leaves the full control of the hospital.
Since its founding in 2018, Oncoshot has been a rising star in Singapore’s healthcare scene. In 2020, the startup launched a nationwide collaboration to take advantage of its clinical trial matching platform, with partners including Roche, cancer immunotherapy start-up CytoMed Therapeutics, and cancer genomics sequencing players ACT Genomics and Guardant Health AMEA.
Last year, Oncoshot enlisted AstraZeneca in its clinical trial network as the the pharma giant looked for ways to swiftly initiate trials that are most relevant to the cancer population in Singapore. And in March this year, the startup also received an investment from the firm Milltrust to boost the development of its technology.
Nations worldwide are acknowledging the need to reduce the barriers to data sharing in healthcare, particularly in the context of running clinical trials. For example, Singapore launched its National AI Strategy in 2019 to speed up the adoption of precision medicine approaches based on the genetic makeup of patients. And in May this year, the European Commission unveiled the European Health Data Space, a scheme devised to streamline the cross-border sharing of medical data for healthcare innovation.
Another big movement in clinical trials in recent years is the growing adoption of decentralized clinical trials. Incentivized by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, this model allows recruited patients to be screened remotely and at home. In March this year, Amazon Web Services teamed up with the startup Thread to host clinical trial software in the cloud. And in May, the U.S. firm Curebase raised $40 million in a Series B round to bankroll its software allowing the execution of decentralized or hybrid clinical trials.