This Cambridge Startup Wants to Build the ‘Google for Clinical Trials'

When Sol Chen spotted a paper flier posted on a wall of Brown University, she couldn’t believe her eyes. It was a call for breast cancer patients to participate in a clinical trial.

“Why would you resort to posting fliers?” the undergrad student asked herself. Furthermore, she tried to put herself in these patients’ shoes and concluded that finding a potential treatment option “randomly on a flier” couldn’t be the best possible experience.

“There must be a better way to connect these patients to trials,” Chen said during a phone interview with BostInno. To the general public, she added, clinical trials are a pretty unknown and scary process. In addition, a lot of treatments end up to be delayed because of the lack of candidates for trials. Sometimes, patients that meet the requirements to take part in a specific clinical trial don’t even know that the trial is being conducted in the area they live in.

The startup Chen co-founded in Cambridge aims at connecting medical professionals with potential clinical trials candidates through an online platform. The name, Clara Health, is an homage to the founder of American Red Cross Clarissa "Clara" Harlowe Barton.

From a patient's standpoint, the platform looks like a ‘Google for clinical trials.’ To find a study they qualify for, users just need to go to the website, enter their condition and the place they live, and the system shows a list of suitable trials. The database of clinical trials the Clara Health system search is automatically updated and nationwide.

Although the company is not making any revenue, funding has already started coming in. Last year, the company raised a pre-seed round and received a check from Rough Draft Ventures. "We have has raised money from some very helpful investors including Adrian Aoun, Charlie Songhurst, and Nicolas Berggruen," Chen said.

To keep developing her venture, Chen - who is currently Clara Health CTO - also won one of this year’s Thiel Fellowships, which provides each winner with mentorship and an investment of $100,000 to build a technology or a technology-related business.

The idea and the principle are similar to User Interviews, another search engine for marketing research candidates.

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