The life sciences industry, like most traditional segments, was caught off guard by the Big Data revolution. Today, years after Hadoop first broke into the enterprise, healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies are only just beginning to take advantage of the opportunities that Big Data offers.
To help life sciences companies tap into new sources of data for insight into patient care and operations, an ambitious startup called Zephyr Health this morning announced that it has snagged $15 million in funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) and Jafco Ventures.
Zephyr Health offers a cloud-based analytics platform designed to ingest and process large volumes of highly variable data, including structured, semi-structured and unstructured data. “In life sciences, there’s a massive amount of data that remains largely disconnected. Data that should be talking, isn’t,” William King, founder and CEO of Zephyr Health, told SiliconANGLE. “Pharmaceutical companies are spending too much time and money trying to find ways to make the data work without impactful results.”
Big Data challenges
King explained that one principal challenge to processing all these types of data together is in creating keys between the data, where no keys exist. “A critical part of Zephyr’s ingestion process lies in proprietary technology that leverages statistics, heuristics and machine-based algorithms to help disambiguate and organize the data,” he said. “As the Zephyr platform continues to look at increasing varieties of data over time, our algorithms become more refined, nuanced and accuracy continues to improve.”
Zephyr’s platform is essentially a hosted alternative to HP’s HAVEn platform, which couples Hadoop with Vertica and search technology from Autonomy to deliver the same functionality on-premise and at large scale. But, while HP is targeting a broad range of use cases, Zephyr Health is focused specifically on life sciences companies.
King said Zephyr Health’s platform brings together enormous varieties of life sciences data from thousands of public and private sources, including patient demographics, sales and interactions. “Zephyr has indexed many thousand sources, externally and internally,” he said. “Just one example of an internal source of data is a customer-sponsored clinical trial. A great example of public data would be articles penned by physicians.”
According to King, Zephyr’s platform gives life science professionals a more holistic view of the clinical and treatment landscape, that it connects data that “otherwise cannot be seen as a whole, so that drug and life sciences companies can bring effective therapies to market faster and less expensively.”
The suite of cloud applications running on top of Zephyr’s platform enables practitioners to derive value from the data to ultimately make better decisions. Zephyr’s platform not only brings together the data, King said, but it then visualizes the resulting data patterns in easily consumable formats. It can be applied across a large variety of use cases and by many different users, from a CEO down to individual contributors. “We have various different formats which range depending on the app being used; each app targets different user needs,” he said. “We designed these apps with the end-user in mind, so it’s very visual, highly intuitive and designed to solve real business problems.”
For example, King said their Voyager app displays information about a specific doctor in a visual format similar to Pinterest.
The platform has already been implemented by five of the world’s largest pharmaceutical and medical device companies. “I’d love to give you the list of our five customers,” King said, “but we’re unable to release them at this time.”
Zephyr Health also announced today that Brook Byers, general partner at KPCB, and Joe Horowitz, managing general partner at Jafco Ventures, have joined Zephyr Health’s Board of Directors. “Both Joe and Brook have industry and company-building experience that will be an asset,” King said, “to making integral business decisions around partnerships, customer growth, and establishing a solid infrastructure as we grow.”