Roivant’s Datavant raises $41M, buys data de-identification firm UPK

Datavant has raised $40.5 million and acquired Universal Patient Key (UPK). The takeover gives the Roivant startup control of HIPAA-compliant "de-identification" technology to support its drive to link up sources of health data. 

Roivant unveiled Datavant after securing a $1.1 billion equity investment last year. The startup, its first outside drug development, wants to break down barriers that keep potentially-complementary sources of healthcare information apart. Many people have expressed an interest in achieving that goal without making a dent in the problem. But Roivant has more money and talent to throw at the problem than most. 

Exactly what talent, money and technology Datavant has at its disposal became a little clearer today. In buying UPK, Datavant has gained a suite of technologies designed to de-identify data—regardless of whether it is in a structured dataset or unstructured text—bridge multiple sources of information and connect internal records to the Social Security Death Index.

In unveiling the acquisition, Datavant focused on UPK’s ability to turn protected health information into encrypted, site-specific tokens, thereby de-identifying the record. 

“UPK’s two-step hash-token and site key process are elegant tools for facilitating HIPAA-compliant data transfer,” Datavant CSO Eric Perakslis, Ph.D., said in a statement.

Datavant is also taking on key members of the UPK team. Co-founder and CEO Shahir Kassam-Adams and chief product officer Jason LaBonte, Ph.D., are joining Datavant as head of strategy and head of product, respectively. 

Kassam-Adams and LaBonte are set to be joined at Datavant by a wave of new hires. The startup, in keeping with Roivant’s approach to building businesses, has already stacked upper management with notable names in its field. Datavant named former FDA chief information officer Perakslis as CSO and surrounded him with people who worked at tech success stories including LiveRamp and Lyft. 

Now, Datavant is using the proceeds of a $40.5 million round led by its CEO Travis May and parent company Roivant to grow its team. The startup is building out business development teams focused on pharma, payers and providers while staffing up its software and security departments.