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Roche to buy cancer data firm Flatiron for $1.9bn

Data provides a wealth of RWE opportunities

Roche Basel Switzerland

Swiss pharma group Roche has beefed up its big data capabilities with a deal to buy Flatiron Health, which focuses on cancer data and real-world evidence platforms.

Software developed by Flatiron - which is backed by Google parent Alphabet and was founded by ex-Google execs Nat Turner and Zach Weinberg - provides ‘regulatory-grade’ RWE capabilities that according to Roche Pharma chief executive Daniel O’Day “is a key ingredient to accelerate the development of, and access to, new cancer treatments”.

Roche has been a Flatiron customer for a couple of years and took a minority stake in the start-up in 2016 in a deal valued at $175m, but now wants complete control of the company and its oncology-specific electronic health record (EHR) and RWE software.

Its software products centre around its OncologyCloud suite, which includes components covering HER, billing, analytics and clinical trial management. Tapping into that data provides a wealth of RWE opportunities, to see how cancer drugs perform outside the confines of clinical trials.

Flatiron will however continue to operate as a separate company, and Roche indicated retaining that autonomy is important “to provide the technology and data analytics infrastructure needed not only for Roche, but for oncology research and development efforts across the entire industry”.

O’Day said the acquisition is “an important step in our personalised healthcare strategy for Roche”, which is the world’s biggest cancer company by oncology sales.

The company has been actively adding to its digital health and RWE capabilities of late as it tries to find ways to make personalised healthcare a reality. Last month, for example, it entered into a multi-year collaboration with US-based Syapse to develop software tools for ‘precision medicine’. That alliance includes a programme looking at the use of AI and machine learning to develop RWE analytics designed to help physicians make better care decisions at scale.

Meanwhile, in 2017 Roche used GNS Healthcare’s REFS technology to analyse large volumes of proprietary data, such as electronic medical records and next-generation sequencing data, in the hope of unravelling the hidden drivers of cancer progression and drug response in challenging cancers, such as CD20-positive diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

The GNS collaboration is “aimed at generating unique insights from a growing volume of genomic and real-world data, which should help inform the development of personalised next-generation cancer treatments”, according to Roche.

Article by
Phil Taylor

16th February 2018

From: Research

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