Making Clinical Trials Boring: Our Investment in

by Blake WuOct 06, 2021

Clinical trials improve patient health and save lives. Without clinical trials, it would be impossible to safely advance treatments for disease, discover novel therapies, expand diagnostic capabilities, explore methods for early detection, analyze patient data, and develop guidelines for effective treatment. There’s a reason why the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (“NCCN”) recommends that the best management of any patient with cancer is in a clinical trial. As of September 2021 there were more than 390,000 active trials running across all 50 states and 219 countries.[i]With the significance and prevalence of clinical trials, and the vital role they play in the healthcare ecosystem, the current amount of inefficiency that exists in their operations is astonishing.

As biopharma and digital health investors for more than 40 years, we’ve seen a common thread woven through the decades—the increasing challenges inherent with navigating the clinical trial landscape. And with dozens of currently active portfolio companies in the biopharma space, we know all too well the pain points felt by clinical operations (ClinOps) departments. The complexity of modern study designs requires up to 70% more samples for reliable results, and with many coordination processes—procurement, vendors, inventory, supply chain—remaining manual, as many as 80% of studies are greater than a month behind schedule. More often than not, ClinOps teams simply don’t possess the technology and infrastructure to optimize these processes. So, out of frustration for our own companies, we started to dig into available solutions, and I came across Slope.

Many of our investments in digital health come from referrals, relationships with repeat entrepreneurs, and other network connections. This, however, was different, and was born from a cold email. Our work with companies like Aetion, fueled our belief in the growing importance and tremendous value of data solutions for the healthcare industry. We had done such extensive and deep research around the

ClinOps solutions space that when I came across Slope, I knew they had something incredible and far better than anything else I’d seen, so I had to reach out in hopes there was an opportunity to partner with the team.

When I first became familiar with Slope co-founders Rust Felix CEO; and Michael Felix, CTO in 2020, I was intrigued by their unique backgrounds in optimization for e-commerce supply chains, and furthermore with their passion to apply their technology expertise to a market that could truly impact the lives of patients affected by disease. The way Rust and Michael articulated their patient-centric vision, massive opportunity to partner with biopharma companies and clinical research sites and organizations , and broad vision to scale their solution really resonated with us. We stayed in contact throughout the past year and were consistently impressed by the company’s early growth and by the additional traction catalyzed by the COVID-19-driven decentralization of trials. Not only was the Slope platform solving age-old issues related to clinical trials by connecting all study stakeholders—ClinOps teams, vendors, research sites, patients, and analytical labs, in one software ecosystem but they were adding immediate value for research organizations that had to quickly learn how to operate in a hybrid environment—a trend that will likely continue well beyond the pandemic-era.

We are honored that Rust and the Slope team chose NEA to lead their Series A financing, and are thrilled to partner with them to (in their words) “make clinical trials boring.” The Slope solution will continue to empower biopharma companies and research sites and departments to focus on advancing therapies rather than managing manual processes and the ultimate implications of that will lead to faster trials, greater participation, better data, and ultimately more lives saved—and there’s nothing boring about that.