Treato scores $14.5M VC round, tackles social media analytics for pharma

Pharma companies have started to tap technologies to listen to online chatter, but the scale of the social media data is huge and the reliability of the information varies. The startup Treato, which has developed software to tackle such challenges, has found $14.5 million in funding from big names in life sciences investing.

OrbiMed Israel Partners and New Leaf Venture Partners led the round for Yehud-based Treato, which also attracted money from previous backers, including Reed Elsevier Ventures, Dr. Shmeul Cabilly and Western Technology Investments. Treato plans to use the money to invest in growing the company's business in the U.S. and expanding its "Facebook meets WebMD" recipe for gathering patient data from the web to include more conditions or clinical trials, company CEO Ido Hadari told GigaOM.

To capture real-time patient comments from social media, Treato uses a combo of Natural Language Processing algorithms, patient language dictionaries and Big Data analytics, according to the company. The approach has enabled the company to gather and analyze 1.3 billion conversations about 24,000 drugs and conditions from thousands of websites.

"We are very excited about Treato and its potential," said Anat Naschitz, managing director at OrbiMed, in the company's release. "Treato can have a real impact on how pharmaceutical companies hone their marketing and development efforts, how payors monitor safety and efficacy and how patients learn about their treatment options."

Faced with challenges such as demonstrating value to payers and monitoring product safety, pharma companies have begun to tinker with new data from social media and other sources such as electronic health records. During a panel I moderated this week at the BIO convention in Chicago, Marc Berger, Pfizer's ($PFE) vice president of real-world data and analytics, said that one of the chief challenges of using new "real-world" data from social media sources and elsewhere is ensuring the quality of the data. As GigaOM reported, Treato analyzes sites to gauge the quality of patient info from them, and this has disqualified Twitter because of the high amount of spam on the site.

Treato has joined a growing crowd of startups that feature offerings for pharma to distill online noise from real patient insights about drugs and diseases. Semantelli offers pharma social media "listening" software to track insights about products and adverse events, for example. And LiquidGrids has launched a social-media analytics platform for marketing groups in healthcare.

Yet Treato aims to boost the level of engagement with patients. GigaOM reported that the company plans to give patients the ability to set up online profiles that provide them with data specific to their individual health needs. With the profile offering, the company might face competition from PatientsLikeMe, which provides disease-specific online communities for patients. The Cambridge, MA-based company has already landed business from a bevy of pharma groups, including industry giants such as Merck ($MRK) and Novartis ($NVS).

- here's the release
- check out GigaOM's article