Treato releases latest software: not another social media-listening app for pharma?

After landing venture bucks from marquee backers in April, Treato has rolled out a new version of its software for analyzing massive amounts of data from online patient posts and commentary. Treato CEO Ido Hadari has been trying to convince pharma companies that his startup's software offers advances from so-called "social media-listening" applications.

Yehud, Israel-based Treato has developed natural-language processing algorithms and Big Data analytics to get insights into, say, why patients drop one drug for another, or what side effects and concerns are associated with certain medicines. These capabilities come wrapped in Treato Pharma, the company's flagship software product, which was launched in October 2012, with the latest release announced on Sept. 10.

Drugmakers targeted social media in part to understand patient likes and dislikes that could impact their sales. Treato doesn't identify the names of its pharma customers. Yet social media and online analytics of patient commentary have become increasingly popular tools for digital efforts in pharma, and Hadari says that his paying customers have included drug brand marketing groups as well as agencies working on behalf of drugmakers.   

In the latest release of the product, the company has focused on layering analytics and infographics that appeal to senior executives. Wall Street types have begun knocking on Treato's door, Hadari says, and executives in pharma aim to stay in step with or ahead of savvy investors.

"For the first time we're bringing the patient into the decision process," in a format "that a senior-level executive can understand without needing 20-page reports from a focus group three months ago," Hadari says.

With patient-derived data from its system, the company posted an article on its website in May that predicted not only that Biogen Idec's ($BIIB) new multiple sclerosis pill Tecfidera would have a successful launch--which any educated biotech watcher could have forecasted--but also that many patients on Teva Pharmaceutical's ($TEVA) Copaxone, Biogen's Tysabri and Sanofi's ($SNY) Aubagio would switch to the newer drug.

Treato's algorithms automatically add 1 million to 2 million new patient posts or comments per day from automated searches of more than 2,500 patient websites, discussion boards, blogs and other online destinations, according to Hadari. To date, the company has analyzed more than 1.5 billion conversations from patients and caregivers, amassing data on more than 11,000 drugs and 13,000 conditions.

Treato.com is the company's public website that attracts more than 3 million visitors per month, Hadari says. For free, those visitors get access to basic search, visualization and analysis tools on the thousands of diseases and conditions under online surveillance at the company. Recently the website added a function that enables patients to leave comments about their own health.

Treato only provides analysis of Facebook comments to its paying customers and the company totally avoids comments on Twitter because there's too much spam, Hadari says.

The company's language algorithms delve way deeper into patient comments than software that picks up mostly on key words, enabling Treato to explain the "why" behind patient trends in the marketplace, Hadari says. The company also seeks less-than-obvious insights into products like, for example, the significant number of pregnant women who shared their experiences on the antidepressant Zoloft.

"We've built an algorithm that tells you what you don't know," Hadari says.

These capabilities could separate Treato from rivals such as Semantelli (now owned by IMS Health), Liquid Grids and Radian6.

Its investors hope so. In April, OrbiMed Israel Partners led a $14.5 million Series B round of financing for Treato, which also drew investments from New Leaf Partners and repeat backers Reed Elsevier Ventures and Western Technology Investments. Treato has raised more than $20 million since it was founded in 2008.

Hadari sounds confident that his company, which is planning to expand with a U.S. office in the greater New York City area, can deliver for his new and previous investors.

"It's the most reliable, real-time, broadest source possible to understand the real deal," Hadari says, "not an analyst reading into reports and making conclusions or assumptions. This is thousands of patients taking your drug, and this is what they are saying. They may like it, they may not like it, but it is what it is. [Pharma executives] want unmediated data and for the first time they can actually get it." 

- here's the company's release

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