Diaceutics proves empowering testing is its own miracle drug

19 Jun 2017

From left: Philip White, CFO, with Peter Keeling, CEO, Diaceutics. Image: Kevin Boyes/Press Eye

Thanks to technology developed by Irish diagnostics company Diaceutics, around 500,000 patients in the EU and US have so far received accurate testing.

The days of one-size-fits-all drugs are numbered and it is Dundalk-based company Diaceutics that is helping the precision drugs industries to gather pace.

Future Human

Diaceutics’ CEO Peter Keeling told Siliconrepublic.com that data and AI are now at the heart of pharmaceutical companies’ ability to test the right patients for their new therapies.

‘We have worked on more than 200 therapy programmes to date and, by our estimates, we have already helped more than 500,000 patients get better tested’

Each year, Diaceutics’ technology helps 48,000 cancer patients in the US and EU get biomarker testing and therefore, potentially gain access to the right drug for their specific condition.

The Irish diagnostics and data company works with 26 out of the world’s top 30 pharmaceutical companies and provides oversight of testing in 23 markets. It forecasts that the precision medicine market in which it operates will grow from €1.4bn today to €4bn by 2020.

Diaceutics has been involved in more than 200 drug launches and currently has a 60pc share in the top 10 global markets – not bad for a 12-year-old company that no one outside of medical research knew much about until now.

About 70pc of new cancer drug launches will be diagnostics-dependent in the next five years, and Diaceutics is front and centre for this change.

However, the company recently warned that as many as 156,000 cancer patients are missing out on life-saving drugs every year due to less-than-optimal diagnostic testing. These “substandard” testing practices are causing pharmaceutical companies in the US and Europe to miss out on up to €15bn in potential revenues annually.

The future of healthcare decision-making

“A significant 70pc of healthcare decisions today are enabled by testing,” Keeling explained.

“However, the primary focus for precision medicine and assessing the financial benefits revolves around treatment, not testing. In order to get the full picture, pharmaceutical companies need a complete vision of the testing landscape. We are providing that with our real-world analysis, which highlights the gaps in diagnostic care and informs the investments required to improve it. In this way, pharmaceutical companies are right-sizing and right-timing their investments in testing as well as in treatment.

“We have worked on more than 200 therapy programmes to date and, by our estimates, we have already helped more than 500,000 patients get better tested, which means the majority of those have then been able to access the potentially life-saving drug that is right for them.”

Pathfinding the future of medicine

Keeling explained that in the same way science has mapped the human genome, Diaceutics has mapped the pathway to optimal diagnostic care.

This is bolstered by a multi-analytic, AI-enabled platform to support better decision-making – in other words, better and more targeted investment – and a 250-strong laboratory network to help pharmaceutical clients implement real and rapid change at the laboratory-physician interface.

“We are already supporting programmes in China, Brazil, Europe and across the US. Our 250-strong lab network is strategically placed in key markets and in front of key physicians demanding better testing.

“Whilst the core issues with testing are often the same – suboptimal tests, long turnaround times for patients and physicians, poor reimbursement of testing, and denying patients access to the right test at the right time – the scale of these issues differs within each country.

“It has therefore been important for us to build not just a US-focused service, but a service in all the key therapy markets. This continues to expand and we have recently begun programmes in the Middle East and in Eastern Europe and Japan.”

Diaceutics’ orgins show that a slow, steady and careful R&D strategy – rather than the heady, start-up journey notable in the tech scene – has been a vital ingredient in its success so far.

“We recognise that there are often two paths to building a company: the rapid one where you raise capital around an innovation and seek to exploit a brief window of opportunity; or the slower path more suited to pioneering and disruptive businesses, where you need to intervene in long-term problems,” Keeling explained.

“We chose the latter path and took 12 years to build a trusted client base with pharmaceutical companies and an end-to-end service that helps them in global markets. To date, our funding has largely come from revenues, but we have invested more than $12m in building out our method, global reach and data supply chain.

“For us, it has been more important to be the right long-term partner for a demanding pharmaceutical client base than a quick, one-time solution. It will take a huge amount of evidence-based change management to get patient testing on the right track, and we have built the best company for that long and intricate journey.”

Keeling refused to rule out taking on funding in the future in order to bring Diaceutics’ technology to more markets and ensure that patients receive proper care.

“This is constantly in review. We recognise that the field we are in is set to quadruple in size before 2020, and we will listen closely to our clients’ needs here and grow in-step with their needs,” he concluded.

“Having said that, our 60pc year-on-year growth for the past three years is attracting external investor attention and, of course, we welcome that dialogue.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years