KEW, Led by Millennium Co-Founder, Seeks to Bring Big-Time Cancer Care to Community Clinics

A new cancer care startup called KEW Group has been quietly operating in the Boston area and entered advanced talks to raise a sizable amount from venture investors. With an ensemble cast of founders from Harvard and elsewhere, KEW plans to provide community oncology clinics with information technology-supported services to make evidence-based medicine, such as genetic testing, part of routine cancer care.

Concord, MA-based KEW (pronounced like the letter “q”) has been in the formative stage for more than a year. Jeff Elton, a former chief operating officer at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research in Cambridge, MA, is the new company’s co-founder and chief executive. A few other big names from Boston biotech and business are rallying behind the new company. Raju Kucherlapati, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and a co-founder of Millennium Pharmaceuticals, is the new company’s co-founder and chairman, bringing biology and drug development expertise. He’s joined on the KEW board by John Glaser, the former chief information officer of Partners Healthcare in Boston, who is now chief executive of Siemens Health Services. And from the business strategy side, Clayton Christensen, the renowned Harvard Business School professor and author of “The Innovator’s Prescription,” has also gotten involved.

KEW aims to enable community oncologists to deliver the same level of evidence-based care as specialists at research hospitals. While academic research hospitals such as Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston have stellar reputations for providing cutting-edge cancer care, only about one out of five cancer patients in the U.S. gets treated at a research hospital. The majority of patients get their care at community oncology clinics like the ones KEW is targeting. Community oncologists, unlike specialists at big research hospitals, generally see patients with many forms of cancer. They are faced with a plethora of information on the complexities of each cancer type that have been uncovered through years of genetic studies. At a research hospital, on the other hand, a specialist might be an expert in treating cancer of one specific organ and only see patients with, say, breast cancer or lung cancer.

“The idea was, can you equip [cancer doctors] wherever they are, whether it’s in southern Illinois or Arkansas, and make them as proficient in how they interact with their patients as the best specialists at the top centers anywhere,” KEW’s Elton says. “That’s really what we’d like to do, but in a very practical, economical, and seamless way.”

As part of KEW’s strategy to build a network of community oncology clinics, the company has plans to merge with … Next Page »

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