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Houston’s MolecularMatch Expands Cancer Patient Treatment Service

Xconomy Texas — 

Houston — Since MolecularMatch launched its web-based service to connect patients to clinical trials two years ago, the startup has received more than 250,000 searches by people seeking cancer treatment.

“We don’t know if each of those people successfully ended up in a clinical trial,” says CEO Kevin Coker, citing privacy rules that patients agree to once they participate in trials.

That insight about the difficulty in tracking patients all the way through a clinical trial has been part of the growth process for the Houston-based health IT firm, he says. So, MolecularMatch spent time to develop complementary products to the clinical trial matching service.

“Clinical trial matching is an important part of what we do, but we’ve moved from a website and turned it into a platform of services,” he says. “The website ties all of these products together.”

MolecularMatch started two years ago out of technology licensed from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The idea was to use software to seek out and aggregate raw clinical trial information from public sources, such as clinicaltrials.gov, to create an online database that patients with certain cancer mutations or other characteristics can use to find trials that might best treat them. Coker has called it a Google search combined with Match.com.

Finding ways to more effectively match patients with clinical trials and boost trial participation is a big challenge right now in the life sciences industry, and MolecularMatch isn’t the only one trying to use software to ease the process.

MolecularMatch is trying to tackle the problem from a different angle, with new products geared toward doctors and researchers.

Coker tells me the company has expanded into services that are separate, but related, to its clinical trial search software for patients, in an attempt to offer clinicians and patients a one-stop place to find the most innovative treatments. “Cancer care has changed so much that physicians can’t keep up with what drugs might work for a patient,” Coker says. “We are taking the latest research, the published data, and incorporate that into our software. We’re able to give the docs the most accurate drug or best clinical trial recommendations.”

MolecularMatch now offers three services, in addition to its clinical trials-matching website. MM Data is designed to work with hospitals’ existing software and electronic medical records systems. “We plug directly into their workflow systems and we receive information about the patient: the type of cancer they have, genetic mutations in that patient’s cancer,” he says. “We process that in our software for drugs that might be of potential benefit for that patient.”

The next product, MM Lab, is a software system that incorporates the data product above, he says. But this product is being targeted toward labs like Foundation Medicine—facilities where genetic testing is done outside of the hospital setting. “These labs have sequencers and other scientists and people who run the lab, but the interpretation [of the genetic tests is] very, very difficult,” Coker says. “That’s the friction point we address.”

Lastly, MolecularMatch has developed what Coker calls a portal through which oncologists can receive genetic testing reports that have been “interpreted” by the company’s software in a HIPAA-compliant way, called MM Engage.

One of the company’s customers is Biodesix, a Boulder, CO-based private lab that is using both MM Lab and MM Engage. “Since the lab is outside of the hospital system, the ways that they can get the information back to the docs are very crude,” Coker says. That’s where MolecularMatch’s software comes in.

As the company rolls out these services, Coker says the company also plans to pursue a Series B round this summer of $10 million. The company has so far raised close to $4 million from investors such as Houston’s Goose Society.

MolecularMatch still has to prove the value of its new offerings, but it’s getting that opportunity. The company has started 17 pilot projects with hospitals and is in talks with half a dozen Chinese facilities, Coker says. He adds that there are a couple of partnerships in the works that should be announced in the next few weeks. “We’re finding there is a huge need for this service,” he says.