Foresite unveils incubator focused on 'nexus of data science and healthcare'

Foresite Capital has launched a new incubator with one goal in mind: to help usher in a transformation in healthcare.

Led by Foresite's managing director—Vik Bajaj, Ph.D., a former exec at Verily and Grail—the incubator, dubbed Foresite Labs, will sit at the intersection of data science and healthcare.

“It is a transformation we’ve seen in many other industries that embraced wholesale the fruits of the information technology revolution,” Bajaj told FierceBiotech. “Healthcare is more difficult because systems are less responsive to the needs of patients than they should be, but it’s happening in many areas, from the basic experiments we use to understand biological causes of disease to how we measure whether the efforts of our clinical interventions are successful.” 

That said, there are still “extraordinary barriers” for those who want to take advantage of the masses of biological and clinical population-level data that are now available. 

“Foresite Labs was created to systematically reduce those barriers to entry for entrepreneurs who want to use all the tools of data science to solve problems in the life sciences and healthcare,” Bajaj said. 

The new incubator is a part of a progression not only for the healthcare arena, but for Foresite Capital as a company. The firm used to invest in late-stage programs and pivoted to become “stage-agnostic” when it raised $668 million in its fourth fund in May last year. It doesn’t limit itself by therapeutic area but said at times that it would pay particular attention to companies using data science and machine learning in healthcare and life sciences. 

“I do see it as part of a progression that allows us to access a broader set of tools and methods to effect the kind of change in the healthcare system that we all want,” Bajaj said. Foresite’s stage-agnostic approach complements the “philosophy we are executing in Foresite Labs … It has to do with getting ahead of the large transformational opportunities we see in healthcare.” 

Foresite Labs is keeping mum on its funding, as well as the number of companies it hopes to launch and when it might unveil those companies. "While we cannot comment on the financial particulars at this time, we look forward to sharing more information in the future as we announce our new initiatives,” Bajaj said. 

Those companies will benefit from a platform with integrated public and proprietary data sets as well as analytical tools, including machine learning and AI-based ones. They will also have access to Foresite Labs’ team of experts hailing from the likes of Grail, Verily, Regeneron and Pfizer, including Alex Blocker, Ph.D., head of data science; Rick Dewey, M.D., head of genomics discovery; Damien Soghoian, Ph.D., head of operations and strategy; and Paul DaSilva-Jardine, Ph.D., head of drug discovery.