Clinical trials vendor TrialSpark raises $156M to transform into a drug company


Spark set out with technology to help pharmaceutical companies run clinical trials more quickly and efficiently. Now it’s joining them. The startup has raised $156 million to finance its transformation into a pharmaceutical company with its own pipeline of drugs.

New York-based TrialSpark said the new financing will be used to acquire clinical-stage drugs, or to partner on their development. The company will support those drug candidates with its in-house clinical trials software.

TrialSpark launched in 2016, cofounded by computational biologist Benjamine Liu and Linhao Zhang, formerly of Salesforce and Oscar Health. They developed a software platform that integrates the front-end of clinical trials, such as recruitment and electronic consent, with the back-end operations of data management, monitoring, and biostatistics. The company says its approach leads to faster clinical studies and also makes those studies more diverse and representative of the patient populations the drugs are developed to treat.

TrialSpark initially served as a vendor to pharmaceutical companies, which used the startup’s software to make their studies more efficient. Novartis, Pfizer, and Sanofi are among the companies using TrialSpark’s technology. Other partners include Versanis Bio and Aditum Bio. Becoming a drug developer has been a goal for the young company. TrialSpark was named the winner in the life sciences track of the Pitch Perfect competition at MedCity News’s INVEST Precision Medicine Conference last December. At the time, Joe Zaccaria, TrialSpark’s client growth director, told MedCity News that the founders and investors want to see company grow into an integrated pharmaceutical company that brings drugs to the market.

“It’s a long-term vision but we really think the core to that is having a better drug-development process,” Zaccaria said.

The new capital is a Series C round of funding. In addition to acquiring or partnering on drug candidates, TrialSpark aims to invest in biotech companies. TrialSpark did not disclose what therapeutic areas it is interested in pursuing, either for its own pipeline or for its investments.

The new financing was led by Sam Altman and Lachy Groom. Other participants in TrialSpark’s latest financing include Sequoia Capital, Thrive Capital, Casdin Capital, Dragoneer, Section 32, John Doerr, Spark Capital, Felicis Ventures, Sound Ventures, Arrowmark.

Photo by TrialSpark

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