Investors Bet Big on Latest Pharma Tech Start-Up ClinTex
In 2014, Brendan Mannion was in Vienna, Austria, for the DIA Forum, watching as his business partner delivered a presentation on the application of data analytics within clinical trials. The annual forum attracts healthcare professionals from around the world, setting the stage for high-level discussions of current issues and the future of patient care. That year, it also set the stage for a new idea – one that would change the course of Mannion’s career and, potentially, the lives of many. Specifically, it led to the creation of ClinTex. This pharmaceutical start-up isn’t only generating buzz due to its revolutionary offering but is also making waves in the fintech space with cryptocurrency funding.
Armed with a thick Irish accent and a boyish grin, you might not expect Mannion to offer such an expert command of blockchain nomenclature and clinical processes. But over the course of our interview, the ClinTex founder guided me, rather effortlessly, through the story of how a scalable blockchain platform built for clinical trials came to be.
ClinTex is a solution provider to the pharmaceutical industry and the team behind CTi – Clinical Trials Intelligence. CTi introduces the healthcare industry to a new type of software platform aimed at transforming the medicine development industry through the application of predictive analytics, machine learning, and the novel use of blockchain technology and smart contracts in clinical trials.
“The kernel of the idea arose from a conversation at the DIA Forum,” explains Mannion. “I had been following blockchain technology since discovering Bitcoin in 2012 and recognised that it had potential beyond its traditional use in currency transactions. My co-founder and I discussed how an immutable decentralised ledger technology (such as blockchain) could be applied to address the issues he described in his forum presentation around poor data quality leading to operational inefficiencies in clinical trials.”
According to Mannion, by 2018, it had become clear that the very issues they discussed in Vienna had continued to escalate rapidly. “It was then that we moved from ideation to opportunity scoping and, eventually, we developed the business concept into a tangible design solution. Over the following eighteen months, we developed a working proof of concept and CTi came to fruition.” The motto, Mannion assures me, is rather simple: create new medicine using faster, safer, and smarter methods. Why? Well, because currently, efficiency issues in clinical trials are costing between $600,000 – $8M dollars per day, and are significantly delaying the delivery of new medicine to patients in need.
For those unfamiliar, ‘fintech’ refers to innovations in the financial and technology crossover space. If this seems like a far-off concept, we can assure you, it isn’t. Popular services such as PayPal and Venmo are considered to be fintech developments. Officially, it is defined as “any company that provides financial services through software or other technology and includes anything from mobile payment apps to cryptocurrency”. Within the pharmaceutical industry, ClinTex is a prime example of disruptive fintech; a revolution, of sorts. But, according to Mannion, the revolution was long overdue.
“To be frank, a revolution in clinical trials is overdue and pharmaceuticals in general is a little late to the data revolution,” he explains. “For decades inefficiency has been built into clinical trial processes and this has left the industry a little disjointed, especially where any kind of collaboration is concerned. We designed CTi to be central to the pharmaceutical industry’s efforts to change that.”
By applying advances in data analytics to clinical data across administrative, operational, and clinical functions, ClinTex can easily identify potential issues and, in turn, mitigate them in a proactive manner. As the data they have expands, the CTi algorithms mature and trend towards the actual prediction of issues that will flip the clinical trial process from reactive to proactive. With this technology, healthcare professionals benefit from advanced and auditable workflows, a collaborative eco-system across the pharmaceutical industry, and an impressive library of clinical data analytics that could benefit the industry on a broad scale. The best part? They’re utilizing blockchain technology to protect and ensure the ongoing integrity of data.
Until recently, the use of blockchain technology in a clinical environment was practically nonexistent. “When we began this journey back in 2018, to the best of our knowledge there was no direct competition at all, We hadn’t come across any other companies exploring the potential application of blockchain and AI to the clinical trial process.”
While ClinTex was the first to the table, they have since been joined by a number of major companies, including Pfizer, Amgen, and Sanofi. They have recently announced their pursuit of a similar application and outcome. For the most part, Mannion explains, their focus seems to lie specifically on patient recruitment.
“We find this a welcome and promising development for the industry,” shares Mannion. “Our Patient Recruitment and Retention (PRR) application fits nicely with this strategy and, in fact, goes further by applying predictive analytics to ensure that patients, once recruited to a clinical trial, are retained throughout the study.”
Recently, the ClinTex team had an incredibly successful funding round which, notably, leveraged cryptocurrency. “As we are using blockchain technology at the core of the platform, we saw a funding opportunity in tokenizing our offering and working with the blockchain community,” explains Mannion. “We offered token sale participants an opportunity to be a part of something new in the space, the building and powering of a platform that uses blockchain for good – in the fight against infectious disease.”
This application of cryptocurrency in the healthcare realm is not an entirely novel concept, but ClinTex’s offering is uniquely supported by several academic research papers dating back over five years. Moreover, it’s precisely the kind of solution that has been called for by the pharmaceutical industry insiders for some time. “In our pre-sale, we offered our native token, CTI, which will act as a micro-license to access the CTi platform when it goes live, for sale to the cryptocurrency community at an early discounted price. In exchange, we took in Etheruem (ETH), Bitcoin (BTC), and Binance Coin (BNB – the native token of an exchange that we hope to work with in the future). We will use these funds for the further development and roll-out of the first app on the CTi platform, CTi-OEM (Operational Excellence Module).”
After their next funding round, the tokens will be tradable on the secondary market via cryptocurrency exchanges.
Of course, even a project as cutting edge as this was not entirely sheltered from the impact of COVID-19. “We were fundraising in the cryptocurrency space, so we could not escape being affected by ‘Black Thursday,’” admits Mannion. ‘Black Thursday’ is a reference to March 12th, the day in which crypto assets registered a price drop across the board between 50 and 60% almost completely across the sector. Even with the stark drop, Mannion wasn’t worried. “I’ve been following blockchain technology for a long time, and, of course, this wasn’t the first spectacular crash of its kind in crypto nor, I imagine, will it be the last. With this in mind, we knew this wasn’t a terminal issue and held off on any retail proposition until the market stabilized and rebounded, which thankfully it did quite swiftly.”
On the other hand, COVID-19 helped, in some ways, to reaffirm and validate their offering. “Due to the nature of our business, we actually found an upside in all the chaos as well,” explains Mannion. “Our mission is to bring down the cost of medicine and improve the speed to market of new medicines for the people who need them, so CTi suddenly became very topical. In the scramble to find vaccines and effective treatments, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the lack of collaboration across the pharma industry, which slows speed to market. This is one of the precise problems that CTi was developed to solve.”
As for the future of ClinTex, Mannion shares that their first priority following their next fundraising round will be the development of the CTi app, CTi-OEM, our Operational Excellence Module. “We will initially deploy it into academic clinical trials in a research collaboration effort, and those initial deployments will validate the CTi concept in live clinical trial settings.”
From there, the company plans to roll out the platform for use in larger-scale Phase III clinical trials. This will be delivered through a free-trial offering for 2-3 large pharma organizations, and the evidence from those trials will be used to further promote the CTi concept.
“It won’t happen overnight, but in time we expect Clinical Trials Intelligence will become the new standard across our industry and an essential part of major global clinical trials.”
ClinTex delivers intuitive blockchain-based self-service analytic solutions to the pharmaceutical industry. At ClinTex, our novel Clinical Trials Intelligence solution will enhance clinical trial processes by providing tools to optimize Operational Efficiency, Clinical Data Quality and Medical Review.