8:35 AM
Mar 09, 2018
 |  BioCentury  |  Strategy

Accelerating Flatiron

How Roche acquisition accelerates expansion of Flatiron’s real-world data platform

Roche isn’t saying much about how it approached the decision to shell out $1.9 billion to acquire the 87% of Flatiron Health Inc. it didn’t already own. But it appears that Flatiron would have needed to scale back or at least slow down development of its real-world data platform as a stand-alone company.

Since Roche is counting on those data to accelerate development of its cancer pipeline, ensuring that Flatiron had the resources to develop the platform quickly made strategic sense.

Flatiron’s main business is providing meticulously curated real-world data to biopharma companies.

Flatiron collects the data through a network of oncology practices that use its OncoEMR cancer-specific electronic medical record software. Since 2014, it has been linking its own data on those patients’ outcomes to genetic data on the same patients’ tumors obtained from Foundation Medicine Inc.’s tumor profiling tests.

Flatiron’s long-term plans include expanding its oncologist network to add more patients to the database, improving the quality of its data to meet regulatory standards, and linking with additional external datasets to provide a more comprehensive picture of each patient’s tumor.

“It is going to require a lot of investment and resources to build out the kind of solutions we are building out,” Flatiron’s CSO, CMO and SVP of Oncology Amy Abernethy told BioCentury.

“It is going to require a lot of investment and resources to build out the kind of solutions we are building out.”

Amy Abernethy, Flatiron

Investors in the private and public markets, however, would have expected Flatiron to focus on growing near-term revenue.

“When we were predominantly venture-backed, we needed to showcase that we could build enough revenue to continue through the equity investments of series A, B, C, etc.,” Abernethy said.

Flatiron has raised $328 million across three private financings from both VCs and strategic investors.

“If we were going to go to the public markets, we were going to be living quarter by quarter in relation to shareholder returns,” she added.

“If Roche were to have exclusivity to the data, the whole system would really fall over and then Roche would have nothing.”

Amy Abernethy, Flatiron

In contrast, she said, Roche took the long view that Flatiron should build its platform “without the shackles of basically quarter by quarter trying to build acute review for the growth of a start-up.”

Roche declined to be interviewed for this story. In an emailed statement, the company said the deal was a “long-term strategic acquisition” because Roche views “regulatory-grade real-world evidence as a key ingredient in accelerating the development of, and access to, new cancer treatments -- securing the future of our business.”

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