The Right Treatment at the Right Time
Iowa biomedical startup harnesses big data.
October 28, 2019
The collaborative efforts of medical researchers and the state of Iowa may lead to better outcomes for millions of patients suffering with lung disease. “We’re in the business of precision medicine,” explains Dr. Susan A. Wood, president and CEO of Iowa-based VIDA Diagnostics. “Imagine a cluster of cancerous cells the size of a pea – our imaging software can not only pinpoint the location, but our data also can produce a predictive model that will map out the best treatment path to eradicate it.”
Precise Medical Treatment
It’s critical to move quickly in the biomedical research field. Today, 24 million Americans suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and will live with the disease for decades at a detrimental cost to their quality of life, not to mention the costs to the U.S. health care industry.
VIDA Diagnostics is a biomedical software company that specializes in the evaluation and treatment of pulmonary diseases – a class of illness with rising mortality rates and limited treatment options. Many of VIDA’s customers are pharmaceutical companies in phase three or four of clinical trials. It takes billions of dollars to bring a drug to market, and pharmaceutical companies want to know in year two whether or not a drug is going to be successful. VIDA’s advanced imaging technology and the analysis provided by their biomedical engineers offers invaluable “go or no go” information to these companies.
“Patients with lung disease can be treated with drugs or various breathing devices, or a combination of both,” said Wood. “With the amount of data at our fingertips, we can predict how a patient may or may not respond to specific treatments at certain times, which provides invaluable information to the pulmonary clinician to treat patients efficiently and effectively.”
In 2014, VIDA’s rapid growth continued by inking a major deal with Olympus Medical to move its technologies into clinical practices. To help build up its commercialization channels and hire more staff, the company received $500,000 from the Iowa Innovation Acceleration Fund and an additional $1.4 million from Next Level Ventures, a venture capital firm focused only on Iowa startups.
Beyond funding, Iowa’s leaders go the extra mile to advocate for VIDA’s success. Dr. Wood is able to tap into key community organizations to help with national talent recruitment or obtain assistance building international relationships. This supportive structure helps a startup company quickly leap to the next level and is a core reason VIDA has found success in Iowa.
“The hierarchy in Iowa is much flatter; you have the access to people who can help and help you quickly,” said Dr. Wood. “The Iowa Economic Development Authority identified VIDA as a solid candidate for acceleration funding and within six months we had the capital in our bank account to advance our sales network and hire additional staff. For state government, that’s incredibly fast.”
Ideal Business Climate
Today, VIDA has several hundred customers in more than 30 countries that either license the company’s imaging technology or use their analysis service. VIDA has access to a large disease-specific database to mine and transform big data into valuable clinical information.
In 2019, VIDA announced a partnership with UnityPoint Health (UPH), to provide access to UPH's extensive and growing multi-state network of hospitals and clinics and allow VIDA to expand and strengthen lung analysis solutions.
VIDA’s success exemplifies Iowa’s strategic approach to supporting business. The state’s strong foundation spurs biosciences innovation and sets a precedent for public/private partnership among universities, business and government.
“Iowa provides the access to talent, investment capital and collaborative structure, which is fueling its growth trajectory in the biosciences industry,” said Dr. Wood. “We’ve been embraced as a company, and the state has given us the tools to thrive.”