5 Questions with a Providence Ventures Partner: N-of-One

Providence Ventures newest investment is in Boston-based precision medicine company N-of-One.  Christiana DelloRusso, a Partner at Providence Ventures, answers some key questions about the company and its value proposition to health systems.

What does N-of-One do? Why did you invest in N-of-One?

Research shows that cancer is not one disease, but is unique in every patient.  Thus more and more cancer centers, hospitals and oncologists are using molecular analysis to identify the unique nature of each patient’s cancer and find the right course of action. N-of-One is a clinical decision support company that leverages its vast proprietary database platform along with specialized domain expertise to help clinicians find the right treatments and clinical trials for their cancer patients. 

We invested in N-of-One because we found them to be far and away the gold standard in what they do- they’ve built an incredible amount of trust in the market – and they are focused for the future on scaling the business without sacrificing the quality they’re known for. The management team is outstanding, and Providence was already a highly satisfied client looking to grow the relationship with N-of-One to expand its Personalized Medicine Program.

How does this partnership help our patients?

There is a big misconception that if we all just share genomic data then we can apply technology, algorithms and automation and be able to cure cancer.  It’s simply not true – there’s a lot of work to do in getting from the molecular data to a clinical path.  Our Chief Scientific Research Officer Dr. Lee Hood understands this, as he acknowledged at a recent event that the human data space is infinite, and you need domain expertise to translate it into something actionable.  N-of-One does this for oncology – they are the true experts when it comes to translating genomic data from an individual cancer patient into an actionable plan that a clinician can recommend.  Patients who enroll in our Personalized Medicine Program will benefit from that expertise and have a personalized plan for treating their disease, which might include a new therapy, a well-matched clinical trial or an off-label drug.   

“Personalized Medicine” seems like a really crowded space.  What makes N-of-One stand out?

We found that the company is definitely viewed as the leader in its market.  But science produces new data every day, and you have to absolutely be on top of that to stay ahead and maintain the quality for which you’re known and respected. At the same time, you have to get faster, you have to scale, and you have to get ahead of competitors who try to undercut with a lower quality, cheaper offering.  When we looked deeper at the company’s history and its management team, we observed a very healthy tension between technology / business people and scientific / clinical people – there’s a push-pull driving both the highest quality customer service and the need to scale the business. N-of-One has built a culture and team that respects and admires each other’s strengths, yet also thrives on unique complementarity.  When you have that combination, it’s something really special.

We also note that N-of-One is a women-run business, and has been since its founding (how rare is it to have a healthcare technology company visit with six of its leaders and there’s only one guy at the table?!).  If you saw the recent Fortune article about the connection between successful VC funded, women-led businesses and VC firms with women partners, they highlight a really interesting study by Sahil Raina from the University of Alberta.  We believe there’s something to that finding, and that the formula will play out with Providence Ventures and N-of-One.

How is N-of-One creating the future of health care?

We think personalized medicine will come to fruition, but it’s going to take a while because human beings are incredibly complex. Vast amounts of data are being generated from tests, sensors and devices, but how do we dissect the data and leverage it to treat, monitor and even prevent disease at the single individual level?  N-of-One is at the forefront of that work.

The future of health care will also require that we demonstrate the personalized approach is cheaper than standard treatments and thus a more sustainable model of medicine.  We can’t do that without programs like Providence’s Personalized Medicine Program and Intermountain Health’s program (also a partner with N-of-One and Providence).  These initiatives, with N-of-One’s support, are studying not only the outcomes that a personalized approach results in, but also what it costs in comparison to standard of care.

What’s Next?

N-of-One is already providing clinical decision support and clinical trial matching to Providence’s Personalized Medicine Program, which is expanding across the health system. We are working together to identify priorities for future collaboration, and how we can best support the company in its efforts to scale its solution with other health system partners. We’re really excited to work with the amazing N-of-One team to bring personalized medicine to all of our cancer patients.