Comprehend Clinical - 5 emerging biotech IT firms to watch

Founded: 2010
CEO: Rick Morrison
Headquarters: Palo Alto, CA
Website: comprehend.com

With more than a decade of experience in writing software for clinical information systems, Rick Morrison has seen first hand the limits of existing technologies for analyzing data from multiple sources. He started Comprehend Systems last year with the belief that his business could give drug companies a better option.

His small team spent the winter months this year in the Y Combinator start-up program in the Bay Area, where newly-hatched tech firms have cut their teeth in the ways of the entrepreneur for years. The experience exposed Comprehend to savvy investors and has helped the firm raise about $1 million from Y Combinator, Yuri Milner, Paul Buchheit, Menlo Ventures and Ron Conway of SV Angel. The company has already found a number of users including Stanford University to demonstrate the power of its reporting and visualization software for clinical data.

Drug companies and CROs have invested big bucks in data warehouses, analytics and reporting software to corral clinical data and monitor happenings in trials. These technologies are relatively expensive to acquire and take significant time to get up and running, Morrison says. Comprehend wants to provide a single software tool that can analyze data from multiple sources without users having to change the existing storage servers or electronic data capture (EDC) systems they already have in place.

"By combining it all together, we can actually save a lot of cost," Morrison told FierceBiotechIT. "The things that companies used to do in several different steps is now in one tool."

Still, the small company faces some obvious challenges, including getting in front of some biotechs and other drug R&D groups that buy this type of software and already have big outfits like Oracle ($ORCL) and Medidata ($MDSO) competing for their business. Still, there are plenty of tech upstarts that have grabbed market share from incumbents based on the strength of their technology and dedication, especially in Silicon Valley, to inspire Comprehend's team to succeed.

Comprehend Clinical - 5 emerging biotech IT firms to watch
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