By Péralte C. Paul
The pharmaceutical industry spends roughly $30 billion a year on clinical drug trials to test new therapies.
About a third of that amount — $10 billion — is spent on monitoring and validation of the trials, a personnel-intensive process that requires site visits, documentation, and other requirements.
But Florence Healthcare, a software startup company that has been accepted into the Advanced Technology Development Center’s (ATDC) Signature program, says its technology can cut those costs, allowing for more efficient trials.
“We help the clinical trial sites and the pharmaceutical companies that conduct these trials to communicate more effectively,” said Ryan Jones, Florence Healthcare CEO and co-founder. “Our technology makes it easy for doctors and nurses to document their work and makes it easier for pharmaceutical companies to access those records, allowing for more trials to be done.”
The niche Florence Healthcare seeks to address comes out of a recent change in regulations the U.S. Food and Drug Administration made with respect to monitoring of clinical drug trials. The change allows for more digitization of clinical drug trials, cutting the need for in-person site visits and other costly measures.
“The industry has an opportunity to reduce that $10 billion annual spend,” Jones said, “provided they have the infrastructure to replace what was previously accomplished by putting people on airplanes.”
Jones and his co-founders, Andres Garcia, who is chief technology officer, and Dr. Michael Kassin, clincal director, launched the company in 2014 after meeting one another at a startup weekend at Georgia Tech.
They first went through Flashpoint, a Georgia Tech accelerator that helps company founders think about their business model and formation. The cofounders knew from the start they wanted to improve healthcare through better data. Only after exploring population health and wearable device services did they discover the opportunity for digitization in clinical drug trials, Jones said.
After going through Flashpoint, the company sought to join ATDC Signature, a highly selective and intense program for high-potential technology and life sciences companies that are based in Georgia or willing to relocate to the state.
Signature companies are those deemed most ready to succeed, get investors, and thrive as stand-alone enterprises. They receive one-on-one mentoring from Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIRs) and have access to other ATDC and Georgia Tech business development programs.
“As we evaluate all the companies that seek to join Signature, we always look at where they fit in Georgia’s economic development landscape,” said Tim Sheehan, ATDC’s lead EIR. “Healthcare and healthcare information technology is certainly a sector that’s strong and growing in the state and Florence Healthcare adds to that strength.”
Jones said joining Signature is critical step in the evolution of the Florence Healthcare, which was named for
Florence Nightingale, the famed pioneer of modern-day nursing.
“The company started at Tech and Tech has been helpful in our development—we wanted to stay close to a good thing,” Jones said, adding access to student talent and the mentorship ATDC provides also factored into wanting to grow the company in Atlanta.
“We’re very proud of the health IT pedigree that’s present in Atlanta,” Jones said, “and that’s one of the main reasons that we’re excited to build the business here.”