Investors put $7.2 million into life sciences firm Intervention Insights in Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids, Mich. (July 18, 2011) – The $7.2 million from a group of investors will help Intervention Insightsfurther commercialize a technology that enables oncologists to match cancer patients with drugs that work best on their tumor.The Grand Rapids-based startup, spun out of the Van Andel Research Institute in early 2010 using a powerful software and launched with about a dozen initial local investors, closed today on the funding.

“Our new funding positions us well in the emerging personalized oncology market and allows us to expand our service offerings to support community oncologists,” CEO Jerry Callahan said.

A key focus for the new funding is validating the technology to health plans and insurers that would pay for the genomic test, which costs $3,950. Convincing health plans to cover the test represents one of the main obstacles in the new era of personalized medicine — where treatments are tailored to individuals, based on their genomic signature — that companies like Intervention Insights need to overcome.

Intervention Insights is involved in a series of clinical trials, plus a local study ongoing with Priority Health in Grand Rapids, and is talking to several Blue Cross Blue Shield plans across the nation and national health plans that are interested in the technology, which has major clinical and cost-savings implications for heath care.

Securing reimbursement payments from insurers and health plans is key to the growth of the company, Callahan said.

“Our hope is to build enough evidence so payer support comes,” Callahan said. “Once payer support happens, the growth will come quickly.”

Callahan hopes the company can secure participating agreements within 18 to 24 months with a handful of health plans nationally. Those initial agreements should lead to others, he said.

“Once one payer starts paying, the speed at which other payers sign on goes much faster,” Callahan said.

Farmington Hills-based Beringea and Chrysalis Ventures in Louisville, Ky., co-led the second-round investment in Intervention Insights. They were joined locally by Hopen Life Sciences, Michigan Accelerator Fund I and Hope River Ventures, all based in Grand Rapids.

Using the genomic signature of a patient’s tumor, Intervention Insight’s flagship OncInsights platform analyzes the array of cancer drugs available globally to find the best matches for a patient, providing oncologists outside an academic research center greater knowledge of and access to drugs they may not previously have had at their disposal.

The clinical and cost benefits come from using genomic profiles to get a patient on the right drug immediately, rather than having to go through two or three regimens, for instance, before identifying what works best for a particular tumor and patient.

Once tissue from a tumor is analyzed at a lab in Kansas City, and the genomic results are analyzed by OncInsights, Intervention Insights sends physicians an electronic report on which drugs may work best on their patient, based on the genomic data. The service also provides oncologists online access to published data about a specific drug and physician discussion groups.

Intervention Insights targets oncologists in community-based settings because they treat a vast majority of the cancer patients in the U.S. and don’t have as many resources available as their counterparts in academic research settings, Callahan said in a 2010 interview with Business Review.

“Intervention Insights is another example of innovation emerging from the state of Michigan’s investment in life science research, resulting in an industry-leading technology that is transforming the way oncologists administer care,” Beringea Managing Director Michael Gross said. “Beringea is eager to help Intervention Insights bring its unique technology to a broader market and contribute to Michigan’s reputation as a leader in health care.”

Intervention Insights initially sought to raise $4.5 million in second-round funding, Callahan said. High investor interest raised the amount to $7.2 million before the company closed off the fundraising, he said.

The high interest reflects the potential of the new technology, he said.

“Personalized medicine and personalized oncology are hot,” Callahan said. “It’s a hot, growing market, and people wanted to place their bets.”