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Exclusive: Power gets $7M jolt to shake up clinical trials

Erin Brodwin
Aug 30, 2022
Illustration of a machine claw lifting a beaker of red liquid.
Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

A new startup called Power that aims to spark diversity in clinical trials with user-friendly search tools raised $7 million in seed funding, cofounder Brandon Li tells Axios exclusively.

Why it matters: Ninety-seven percent of U.S. patients and providers never participate in a clinical trial, with the majority of such research located at prestigious, difficult-to-access academic medical centers.

  • As a result, low-income people, women and people of color are often excluded from medical research.
  • And, trials over-enroll affluent white patients, curbing the relevance and applicability of research.

Deal details: Footwork and CRV led the round and ARTIS Ventures, South Park Commons and AirAngels participated.

  • Li says the funding gives Power about three years of runway, and added that he hopes to remain "capital-light."

Context: As fault lines emerge in the clinical trials landscape, a growing number of startups have attracted significant capital, with several reaching multibillion-dollar valuations this year.

Of note: The Food and Drug Administration in November 2020 released new recommendations intended to diversify clinical trials, including broadening eligibility criteria.

How Power works: Users can browse clinical trials by condition, location and drug type and instantly see estimates of their eligibility.

  • The San Francisco-based company uses AI to simplify medical jargon in trial descriptions and links patients directly with researchers for follow-up questions.
  • Users can search over 30,000 clinical trials comprised of 100,000 researchers and about 10,000 medical conditions.

The backstory: Li started Power after watching a friend diagnosed with a brain tumor struggle to wade through the federal government's clinical trials site, clincaltrials.gov, despite having an engineering degree and friends and family in the medical industry.

What they're saying: Li and CRV general partner Kristin Baker Spohn see Power as a missing conduit in the clinical trial network because it is focused so heavily on making the experience easy for patients.

  • "You’ve seen a number of companies emerge in this space, but I think what was missing is a lot of them rely on behavior change from the provider," says Baker Spohn. "Power captures people at that moment of seeking to enroll."
  • "At the end of the day it should be as easy to find a clinical trial as it is to book a place on Airbnb," says Li.

Notably, Power's website analytics suggest it is attracting a more representative pool of users than current clinical trials enroll, according to Baker Spohn and Li.

  • "We measure our stats against the U.S. Census and we’re within one or two percentage points on all the different racial groups," says Li. "So when we say we're representative of the U.S. population, we're representative of the U.S. population."

💭 Our thought bubble: Unlike clinical trial startups that focus on pharmaceutical companies (Reify) or clinicians (Topography), Power strikes us as a kind of Google search bar for medical research.

What's next: Li says the company is still ironing out its business model, but it may soon work with CROs and pharmaceutical companies to provide insights on research access barriers.

  • "We have a role to play in advocating with our partners to help them potentially reconsider their ways of operating," says Li.
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