After losing its CMO to the FDA, Roche's Flatiron Health nabs biopharma veteran

Roche
Roche unit Flatiron Health still works as a separate legal entity. (Roche)

After its near $2 billion buyout by oncology giant Roche last winter, Flatiron Health has hired a new chief medical officer as it looks to push on under its new parent in the world of electronic health records (EHRs) and real-world data.  

Cancer researcher and former Unum Therapeutics, Takeda and Genzyme executive Dr. Michael Vasconcelles joins the company as CMO.

In this role, he “will be responsible for defining and executing the company’s strategic vision for real-world evidence, providing thought leadership and guidance around novel clinical research methods, and partnering with clients and stakeholders, including government agencies, to further the use of real-world data derived from electronic health records,” according to Flatiron’s statement.

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This also comes a few months after Amy Abernethy, the company's former CMO, jumped ship to become deputy commissioner at the FDA, currently working alongside acting commissioner Ned Sharpless.

RELATED: Flatiron Health expands real-world cancer data collaboration with FDA

Flatiron built its business around oncology-focused EHR software and a repository of real-world cancer evidence. The software has gained traction and given Flatiron links to more than 250 community oncology practices. But Roche pointed to the firm’s focus on real-world evidence as a key driver of the deal it made to buy the company ion 2018.

“As an industry, we are seeing rigorous discussions, development of standards and concrete applications of real-world data for cancer research,” said Zach Weinberg, chief operating officer and co-founder at Flatiron.

“Dr. Vasconcelles’s deep clinical, development and regulatory experience will help drive these efforts industry-wide, and we are excited to bring that experience to bear so we can continue to serve our partners and patients across the oncology landscape.”

As CMO, Vasconcelles will focus on Flatiron’s research, quality and regulatory offerings; Dr. Bobby Green will continue to also serve as a CMO for the company, but will focus on the clinical development of Flatiron’s suite of technology and services for community oncology.

“We are at a defining moment in oncology, where cancer research and clinical treatment are informing one another, driving a holistic learning healthcare system,” said Vasconcelles. “Flatiron has been at the forefront of developing real-world data for cancer research, and I am excited at the opportunity to be able to contribute to their mission of improving lives by learning from the experience of every cancer patient.”

Data are plentiful in modern healthcare, but lots of data are held in free text fields or PDF documents, making the information tough to analyze. Flatiron, founded by former Google execs, set itself apart by pulling data out of these hard-to-access sources and using them to build high-quality curated repositories. Although healthcare data are plentiful, data sets of that standard are rare—and valuable. 

Under last year’s buyout, Roche said it would allow Flatiron to continue as a separate legal entity that will continue to provide services to the rest of the healthcare industry.

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