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TraceLink Bags $93M, Plans A.I. & Blockchain Tools for Drug Tracking

Xconomy Boston — 

Step one for TraceLink, a maker of software that helps track the supply chain of pharmaceuticals, was recruiting hundreds of thousands of companies and organizations to its digital platform.

Now, much like the playbooks of social media companies and other tech firms, step two will be to develop “new applications on top of that infrastructure”—thereby taking advantage of “the information and the network that we’ve built to drive even greater value for our customers” says TraceLink CEO Shabbir Dahod.

A new cash infusion might help the company in that endeavor. On Tuesday, the North Reading, MA-based firm announced it closed a $93 million funding round led by Georgian Partners, a later-stage investor based in Canada. Georgian was joined by new TraceLink investors Vulcan Capital and Willett Advisors, as well as earlier backers FirstMark Capital, Volition Capital, F-Prime Capital Partners, and Goldman Sachs, according to a press release.

The $93 million investment includes $60 million that was revealed in a June document filed with the SEC. TraceLink says it has now raised a total of $167 million from investors to date.

The 500-person company sells cloud-based software that enables companies in the pharmaceutical industry to perform various tasks around authenticating and tracking the drugs they work with. That includes meeting regulatory compliance standards, storing what can be a massive amount of data created by tracking individual packages of drugs, and interacting with other companies that use TraceLink (such as manufacturers coordinating with distributors).

As Xconomy has reported, the nine-year-old company aims to not only let customers track large amounts of data, but its software is also meant to let them exchange data on the platform, almost like a social network. TraceLink’s software capabilities include instantly notifying every organization in the network when there’s a drug recall. Organizations can then use the company’s inventory tracking functions to figure out where the product is located, Dahod says.

TraceLink’s software is currently tracking nearly 1 billion pharma products, Dahod says. Its network connects more than 270,000 pharmaceutical companies, contract manufacturers, wholesale distributors, hospitals, pharmacies, and other organizations worldwide. The company counts more than 950 of them as customers, Dahod says. He declined to share the company’s revenues, but he says they’re growing quickly.

The company’s future product ideas include developing machine learning applications for customers to crunch the vast amounts of supply chain data they’re accumulating, in order to, say, manage drug inventory better and predict shortages, Dahod says.

“All of this converges into a massive data store that now we’re building out,” he says. “We want to leverage it with new technologies, such as machine learning, to have better integrity of product … and more predictable forecasts.”

Another area of interest for TraceLink is blockchains, the online, distributed ledger systems that power cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. TraceLink is developing blockchain-based software to help the pharma industry meet certain track and trace requirements in the U.S. Drug Supply Chain Security Act, Dahod says. He says the company will release more details about the project by the end of the year.

There’s a lot of hype surrounding blockchains, but not many products having an impact. Still, TraceLink isn’t alone in attempting to apply the emerging technology to supply chains. IBM and Maersk, the European shipping and logistics company, have formed a joint venture working on blockchain software for supply chains. Meanwhile, Walmart and several other brands are starting to use IBM software to track the supply of food.

Dahod says TraceLink customers have “curiosity” and “early interest” in blockchain systems for the pharma supply chain. “We believe we have a very practical approach to a solution that is more in line with the value proposition that blockchains provide,” he adds.