A study in success: Jeeva creates solution for clinical trials
By any measure, Harsha Rajasimha was a successful man. With published journal articles, chapters in professional textbooks, multiple patents, honors, and awards, his work received plenty of accolades. None of these accomplishments equipped Harsha to help his baby daughter, who died from Edwards Syndrome — a rare congenital disease. Determined to honor his daughter’s memory, Harsha founded Jeeva Informatics Solutions, where he devotes a percentage of his time and his post-doctoral training in genomics and precision medicine to develop diagnostic techniques and therapeutic protocols for rare diseases.
Jeeva initially focused on next-generation sequencing and data-analytics interpretation (taking raw data and turning it into useful knowledge). In 2018, the company pivoted to address the problem of participants in clinical trials, a mandatory step in getting products to market. Patient recruitment takes time and, if anyone drops out, it takes additional effort to recruit more participants. These issues cause delays, which in turn cause the loss of billions of dollars and can render the drug-development industry unsustainable.
Jeeva is in the process of solving this critical “bottleneck” by developing a decentralized clinical trials technology platform. The premise is simple: get more people into clinical trials by reducing the burden of travel. “It’s a virtual clinical-trials platform that addresses the travel burden for participants in clinical trials. Our approach replaces 20% to 80% of visits to brick-and-mortar sites with eVisits. In other words, we are a telemedicine solution for clinical trials with long-term follow-ups,” Harsha explains.
Harsha teamed up with the Mason SBDC and Director Bob Smith to take his concept to the next level. Bob encouraged Harsha to participate in the SBDC’s Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP). After successfully interviewing 146 customers in seven weeks, Jeeva rose to the top of the ICAP leaderboard and was accepted into the Spring 2019 cohort of the National Science Foundation I-Corps program, which included a cash grant.
In December 2019, upon completion of the I-Corps program and following guidance from the Mason SBDC, Jeeva sought and received a round of financing from the Center for Innovation Technology (CIT), Virginia’s public venture-capital investment group.
The SBDC was crucial for filling in the gaps for Harsha and team Jeeva. “While I had solid technical, scientific, and business-development experience in the life science industry, I did not have a solid grasp of the startup process,” Harsha says. “My mentor gave tremendous support and guidance on the proven process of making go/no-go decisions faster and on building a startup company from the ground up.”
With a rapidly growing team, 2020 looks bright for Jeeva as they continue to gain traction in their field. Harsha is grateful to be able to build Jeeva’s success on a framework of solid guidance from the SBDC.