Originally published on Geek Wire on October, 19, 2014

Amplion Research wants to make finding biological information as easy as searching for a flight on Kayak.

biomarkerbaseAnd the 20-month-old maker of the BiomarkerBase data service is well on its way of fulfilling that mission after scoring the top prize at the Bend Venture Conference on Friday, outpacing four other startups to secure $400,000 in investment. (Amplion won the $250,000 Launch Stage prize, as well as $150,000 from venture capital firm Seven Peaks Ventures).

Led by biotech vets John Audette and Adam Carroll, the Bend-based startup is looking to help large pharmaceutical companies and healthcare R&D organizations better collect and mine biomarker data — critical information related to clinical trials and other drug development.

“Biomarker information, like so much information in modern biology, has absolutely exploded since the completion of the human genome project,” explained Chief Scientific Officer Carroll in his 10-minute pitch to the crowd of more than 400 investors and attendees. “There is an enormous amount of information, but the tools to make sense of that information are not expanding at the same rate.”

That’s where BiomarkerBase comes in, an online system that Carroll says is organized more intuitively that competing products. Typically, researchers at pharmaceutical companies spend hours or days collecting biomarker data from disparate sources such as ClinicalTrials.org or PubMed.gov, manually inserting that data into Microsoft Excel.

“It has the chance to be out of date, as soon as it is saved,” noted Carroll, adding that the information can be extremely challenging for researchers across large organizations to find.

“An old collaborator of mine at Pfizer used to say: If only Pfizer knew, what only Pfizer knows.’ It sounds comical, but it is a huge problem when you have all of your companies’ institutional memory stored on a shared drive,” he said.

By organizing the data in one place and making it easy to find, Carroll said that users of BiomarkerBase can save hours of time, which ultimately reduces the cost of drug development.

By the end of this year, Amplion plans to have 18 customers using BiomarkerBase, with an average annual price from renewal customers coming in at about $30,000. Its biggest customer just came on board at $50,000, renewing early and adding 20 additional customers to the license.

“We think our reach inside of these companies is going to be quite large,” Carroll said, noting that the product is being adopter by marketers as well as research directors.

Amplion's Adam Carroll at the Bend Venture Conference.
Amplion’s Adam Carroll at the Bend Venture Conference.

The goal is to reach more than $500,000 in revenue by the end of 2015. The startup competes against ThomsonReuters, Biobase and Gene Logic.

At this point, Carroll said that all of the data that’s put into BiomarkerBase is doing so manually, but they are working hard to automate that process.

Even though competing services like ThomsonReuters index the same data, Carroll said it takes “16 clicks” to find the “one thing you want.”

“We have a user experience differentiation,” said Carroll, one that is not easy to replicate by competitors.

In addition to Amplion, other winners at the Bend Venture Conference included: Bright.md, which allows primary care providers to remote care to patients; CrowdStreet, a crowdfunding platform for commercial real estate projects, and Poachedjobs, an online jobs marketplace for those in the restaurant industry. In total, nearly $1 million in capital was allocated at the conference, making it one of the largest angel investment conferences of its kind in the Pacific Northwest.

(Editor’s note: I served on a panel at the conference, asking questions of the Launch Stage companies)