A global pharmaceutical company based in France has licensed software developed by San Diego digital health startup CureMatch that aims to help cancer doctors customize the combination of drugs they prescribe to patients based on mutations in cancer DNA.
CureMatch was founded in 2015 to commercialize technology developed at the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. The company, which CEO Bob Manning says has raised about $2.5 million in outside investment, says its software can help guide customized care by using a patient’s genetic information to score and rank treatment options. It calls the guides it produces PreciGENE reports.
Now it has teamed up with Paris-based pharma Servier to expand its analytics offerings and get the software in front of oncologists at clinics and hospitals around the world.
CureMatch will work with the WeHealth division of Servier—its digital health department, launched in November 2016—to broaden the reach of its technology. (WeHealth has also inked deals this year to work with MIT’s AgeLab on developing home health care services, and with Oncodesign, a French biotech, to develop new Parkinson’s disease drugs.)
Manning called the deal a game-changer for the company, and one that ensures its viability.
CureMatch has worked with more than 100 doctors, according to Manning. Many of those reached out to the company after learning of the results of its clinical trials or hearing about it from cofounder Razelle Kurzrock, who directs the UC San Diego Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy. Last year, CureMatch took home a prize of $35,000 in MetroConnect, a contest organized by the World Trade Center San Diego, an affiliate of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., to help companies expand overseas.
But the promise of CureMatch’s technology hasn’t alleviated the financial struggles many startups go through.
“We were in a spot where we were going to need to raise additional funds fairly quickly, or we were rapidly approaching the end of our runway given our cash on hand,” Manning says. “We know that we’ve got something really special here, but we needed to get that boost to take it to the next level.”
CureMatch’s relationship with Servier dates back to a partnership the French company established about a year ago with UC San Francisco’s Center for Digital Health Innovation to identify promising digital health startups.
“That led to some additional meetings, which led to a due diligence process that was very rigorous and length,” Manning says. “They got to know us, and we got to know them, and it seemed to be a good fit for both parties. … What this partnership is going to allow us to do is complete our software development and deploy in the cloud in a secure, scalable way so that oncologists around the world can utilize our platform.”
The company has 13 people, a total Manning says will double this year as it adds people to its clinical and software development teams.
Genetic testing of tumors is conducted today by companies including Cambridge, MA-based Foundation Medicine, which was acquired last year by Roche, and Thermo Fisher Scientific (NYSE: TMO), in Waltham, MA. CureMatch doesn’t do any testing itself.
Manning says CureMatch will get to take advantage of Servier’s sales and marketing expertise, plus tap it for help with software development and clinical trial programs.
Right now, “I have one sales guy,” he says. Access to Servier’s sales and marketing teams will “extend our reach globally way beyond anything we could have dreamed of building organically.”
In exchange, Servier gets exclusive rights to sell access to the CureMatch platform to its network. Terms weren’t disclosed, but Manning says the value of the deal is in the “tens of millions” of dollars, with a portion up front and other potential future payments and licensing royalties.
Servier’s business model is different from a typical biopharma company. The company, with 22,000 employees across 149 countries and revenue of 4.2 billion euros in 2018 (about $4.7 billion), is overseen by a nonprofit organization. It says it invests 25 percent of yearly revenues (excluding sales of generics) back into R&D.
Nearly a year ago, as part of a bid to become a major player in oncology, Servier snapped up the oncology branch of Dublin, Ireland-based Shire for $2.4 billion in cash. (After Shire divested the unit and narrowed its focus to rare disease drugs, the company was acquired by Japan’s Takeda (NYSE: TAK) in a deal valued at $62 billion.)