Release Date: May 2, 2019
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Pop quiz: Why do many clinical trials fail?
A) Researchers struggle to recruit participants.
B) Participants worry they’re just “guinea pigs.”
C) The regulatory and legal hurdles are overwhelming.
D) All of the above.
If you answered “D,” you’re correct. These are widespread problems in medical research that slow the development of new treatments, interventions and tests that aim to prevent, detect and manage various diseases and medical conditions.
The situation inspired Irfan Khan, former director of electrophysiology at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, to leave that post and found what has become Circuit Clinical in 2014. Fast forward five years, and the company is one of the city’s most promising startups.
It has about two dozen employees with plans to hire more. It leases office space on Delaware Avenue, not far from the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. And it’s inking deals with regional and national health care providers to improve participation in clinical trials and grow the region’s strength in genomic medicine.
“We’re fulfilling a role that until very recently went unmet. Circuit Clinical is helping ensure that people in Buffalo and beyond have access to the best and most promising clinical research options. Meanwhile, we’re helping companies bring medicines to market faster and at lower costs,” says Khan.
Leveraging Buffalo’s entrepreneurial ecosystem
Before 2014, Khan was considering taking his idea to Colorado. He ultimately decided to stay in Buffalo and take advantage of economic development programs offered through New York State and UB.
Chiefly, Circuit Clinical partnered with UB’s Buffalo Institute for Genomics and Data Analytics (BIG), which is part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s economic development effort to advance Buffalo Niagara as a hub for bioinformatics and life sciences research. BIG provided Circuit Clinical with $1.1 million, as well as connections to university researchers, that have helped the company build its software products that are driving enrollment in clinical trials.
The company also enrolled in New York State’s START-UP NY economic development program, was a semifinalist in the 2016 43North business plan competition and it received funding from the UB Center for Advanced Technology in Big Data and Health Sciences.
Additionally, Circuit Clinical has partnered with UB researchers, such as Manoj Mammen, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB, and launched an internship program that it uses to recruit new hires.
“Circuit Clinical continues to make great progress in their development. They’ve launched new software tools and services to improve patients’ access to critical clinical trials,” says Christina Orsi, associate vice president for research and economic development at UB. “We look forward to an ongoing partnership between UB BIG and Circuit as they continue to secure investment and grow their employment in Buffalo.”
Outside investors fueling new programs
In addition to support from UB and state economic development programs, the company’s growth has been fueled by millions of dollars of private investment from local banks and investors.
The support has enabled Circuit Clinical to launch additional programs such as TrialScout (www.trialscout.com) TM, a website that allows people participating in clinical trials to share their experiences and information. The goal, Khan says, is to create a safe and informative environment that supports participants in the decision-making process.
Circuit Clinical also recently started a precision medicine program that enables the company to collect, store and process blood, tissue and bodily fluids for genomic sequencing and studying of the microbiome. This builds upon Circuit Clinical’s partnership with UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, which focuses on groundbreaking research, new discoveries and providing patients with access to innovative, new treatments and therapies.
“We’re obsessed with the patient experience,” says Khan. “With every decision we make we ask ourselves ‘What’s best for the patient?’ That’s our organizing principle.”