Buzzreach raises $450K to help Japanese pharma firms ease clinical trials for drugs

The Buzzreach team, investors from KLab Venture Partners
Image credit: Buzzreach

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based MedTech startup Buzzreach announced today that it has fundraised 50 million yen (about $450,000 US) in a seed round. This round was secured in December of 2018 and led by KLab Venture Partners. The amount includes loans from financial institutions.  The company offers a matchmaking platform called Puzz between clinical trial patients and pharmaceutical companies as well as a media portal called ‘Smt‘.

Buzzreach was founded by Takateru Inokawa (current CEO) and Kiyoshi Aoyagi (current COO), both of whom had been previously involved in the foundation of two patient recruit organizations: Clinical Trial and Croee.

In the increased globalization of the pharmaceutical industry and their drug discovery business, more new drugs are becoming in need of getting approved by authorities in each country before coming to the markets. To seek approval for drugs, it is necessary to conduct tests called clinical trials.

Clinical trials are roughly classified into three phases:

  • phase I: Conducting a trial to evaluate drug’s safety and toxicity to healthy persons
  • phase II: Conducting a trial to examine usage / dosage with a smaller number of patients
  • phase III: Conducting trial to assess drug’s effectiveness comparing to conventional drugs in a larger number of patients.

Out of all these phases, phase I trials are performed in a smaller group consisting of recruited subjects by giving compensation as we can occasionally see recruitment ads on job magazines. On the other hand, phase II and III trials must be performed in a larger group of patients with a specific disease.

This process in recruiting patients poses many difficulties. To participate a clinical trial for a new drug, patients are required to meet eligibility criteria set for each trial including health status or disease condition. Even if a patient meet the criteria, a pharmaceutical company would have to acquire the consent from the patient and cooperate with medical centers / clinics as well as principal investigators. If the pharmaceutical company could not have a sufficient number of patients, it would be forced to extend the period of the trial or increase the number of medical centers / clinics, which requires vast extra-budget before the application for marketing approval.

To solve these problems, Buzzreach has developed Puzz, the data management system of clinical trial subjects. Pharmaceutical companies, CRO (contract research organization) which monitors clinical trial process and SMO (site management organization) which owns data about medical centers / clinics capable of participating clinical trials are allowed to join Puzz and then can deliver clinical trial information to more than 2.5 million potential trial subjects, over 10 healthcare-related media outlets and 10 patient advocacy groups.

For subject candidates needing clinical trial information, Buzzreach offers a medical portal site called SMT, where users can search specific clinical trials with the criteria which their clinical condition and symptom meets. Although such information is also provided by Japic CTI (Japan Pharmaceutical Information Center), it is not so user-friendly; the website offers only smaller information only and no inquiry contact. SMT gives detailed information provided by pharmaceutical companies in addition to the quote from Japic CTI. By replying to questionnaires shown in search results, applicants can convey their intention to participate in a clinical trial to a pharmaceutical company.

Image credit: Buzzreach

Buzzreach makes money by charging fee to pharmaceutical companies using the platform on a monthly basis. The startup provides three pricing plans according to how many drug discovery pipelines the user company has or how much budget they have.

We have seldom seen KLab Venture Partners’ investment in a vertical SaaS (software as a service) startup. However, the VC firm may not help ignoring the existence of patients as consumers in the business model. Of course, such a service requires great care to handle information concerning users’ privacy, but Buzzreach has a great potential to create another value through the secondary use of such precious individual data.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by Masaru Ikeda