PatientsLikeMe Growing as Pharma Customers Boost Focus on Patients

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found that the patient profiles have helped them make decisions for those in their care. (Cambridge-based Sermo, the social networking site for doctors, has also shown that an increasing number of physicians are open to using social media for their jobs.) The company also makes presentations at academic meetings, building its credibility with healthcare professionals.

It’s tough to identify exactly which companies are competitors of PatientsLikeMe, because the firm has a unique business model. But there are certainly a bunch of Web-based businesses competing to gain the attention of patients, whether it’s to sell advertising to medical products manufacturers, build online communities that generate marketable data, or other business strategies. Perhaps the clearest competitive threat to PatientsLikeMe is San Francisco-based Keas, which was founded in 2008 by Google veteran and company CEO Adam Bosworth. This week Keas, whose site gives users a dashboard where they can track their health, announced a collaboration with New York-based Pfizer [[NYSE:PFE). The drug giant is promoted the use of Keas’s technology to enable healthcare professionals to design treatment plans for patients.

One thing that appears to differentiate PatientsLikeMe is the emphasis it puts on catering to people with specific diseases. The company now operates 10 separate communities that represent 18 diseases. It’s also well known that Heywood and his brother James Heywood, the chairman of PatientsLikeMe, co-founded the company in 2004 while their family was aggressively searching for ways to improve the life of their brother Stephen, who died in 2006 from the neurological disorder ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).

There are high expectations for the company among patients as well as the firm’s big-named investors. Ben Heywood says that the company doesn’t disclose how much money it has raised from investors (though he did acknowledge reports that the firm took in $5 million in a Series A round of funding in 2007). Yet the company is more open about the identities of its backers, which include Internet commerce pioneer Jay Tenenbaum through his Silicon Valley firm CommerceNet, the New York private equity firm Invus, Omidyar Network, the Redwood City, CA, the philanthropic investment group started by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, and Collaborative Seed and Growth Partners, based in the Boston area.

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