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SoftBank is in talks to lead a $150 million investment in clinical trial startup Science 37

The company connects researchers with participants for medical studies.

A scientist checks laboratory supplies in a storage closet. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images/Cancer Research UK

SoftBank’s Vision Fund is continuing its aggressive dealmaking spree with plans to lead a $150 million investment round into a clinical trial startup called Science 37, Recode has learned.

The Vision Fund is in late talks to give new cash to the telemedicine company that helps researchers find participants for medical trials, according to people familiar with the deal. The transaction would value the company at about $300 million, not including the new money, the people said.

While it would be one of the Vision Fund’s smaller deals, it would be another sign of the powerful investor’s interest in life sciences and biotech companies during a boom time for those industries. Despite high-profile flops like Theranos, health tech startups like 23andMe are so popular among venture capitalists these days that some VCs are leaving well-established funds to focus on biotech full-time.

SoftBank, which is investing a $100 billion fund that is reshaping Silicon Valley finance, last year led a $1.1 billion round of funding into Roivant Sciences, a drug development company, a $360 million round into Guardant Health, a biotech startup trying to detect cancer, and participated in a $500 million round into Vir Biotechnology, which tackles infectious diseases. This would be the Vision Fund’s fourth health or science deal.

SoftBank declined to comment. Science 37 didn’t return requests for comment.

Founded four years ago in Los Angeles by Noah Craft, a CEO who has both an MD and a PhD, Science 37 helps pharmaceutical companies and devices manufacturers seek out patients willing to help test new treatments. The startup competes against legacy contract research organizations, called CROs, but Science 37’s pitch is that it gives participants the ability to complete the study from the comfort of their home, which allows the firm to obtain a more representative sample of clinic participants, the company says.

Current studies offered through Science 37’s website ask for participants who are willing to take medication to possibly treat cluster headaches or research how insulin treatments affect people of color who live with Type 2 diabetes.

“Inaccessibility due to geography, lack of patient awareness and trust, and the inconvenience posed by site visits are the reasons why 80 percent of all clinical trials are delayed and fewer than 3 percent of eligible patients are able to volunteer to participate,” the startup says on its website. “This means that patients are waiting longer for better treatments.”

Nevertheless, some venture capitalists say they are not convinced by the company’s ability to scale its business to drive enough revenue — which at Science 37 is made not through recurring clients but on a project-by-project basis — or to compete with such an entrenched incumbent like the CROs. The company generated about $10 million in revenue last year, according to people familiar with its performance.

Science 37 was last valued at about $200 million during its last round of funding in April 2017. Previous backers include Lux Capital and GV, now known as Google Ventures.

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