Peer Medical has a big mission. After his father died of lung cancer, serial entrepreneur Ed Spiegel vowed to create a better way for lung cancer patients to deal with their disease. The startup has so far raised a $1.2 million seed funding round for its groundbreaking approach and is onboarding patients at a rate of knots.
Peer Medical allows lung cancer patients to anonymously share their treatments with each other. This helps survivors find others like them and see which treatments and procedures work best. Users can search by biomarker, stage, age or gender and review verified treatments and journeys of similar patients.
The funding round was led by Amsterdam-based Partners in Equity (PiE), best known for investing seed capital into Adyen, the Dutch payments unicorn; and London’s Seedcamp, alongside angel investors. Peer Medical is now able to sign up patients’ electronic health records inside a minute. Its advisers include Dr. David Jablons, head of thoracic oncology at UCSF, and Dr. Geoffrey Ginsburg, head of applied genomics and precision medicine at Duke University.
Spiegel’s RentMineOnline was one of the first-ever “share economy” startups to appear 10 years ago, and also Seedcamp’s first investment, and its first exit.
Indeed, the idea for Peer Medical came to Spiegel 10 years ago as the sole caregiver during his father’s three-year battle with lung cancer.
Spiegel told me he came up with the idea after meeting a buddy of his from college who had also seen his father pass away from lung cancer. Comparing notes, Spiegel realized he could have had so much more information if they’d been able to share treatment information.
“It’s like: ‘God I wish I would have known that back then!’ It’s just such a terrible experience. Unfortunately for me, I lived the experience, but I could have really used a sort of ‘electronic caregiver’ essentially to help my dad through it.”
Participating in online forums, Spiegel found patients willing to help but realized the need for a centralized, searchable database that contained the knowledge these people possessed. There were over 1.7 million new cancer cases diagnosed in the U.S. last year alone. The information for the patients is often disorganized, incomplete or out of date. Medical record portability is growing in adoption and will be crucial in aiding treatments.
“It’s a little like you as a driver using Waze to crowdsource information from other drivers to get to the perfect route because you’re learning from all the other people,” commented Spiegel. “The future is certainly electronic health records, although it’s still kind of like using a credit card in 1999 online, it’s coming in a big way. You will have your records, and wonder, ‘Who else is just like me?’”
There are already big players making it happen such as Apple Health, and online hospital portal growth driven by companies like Epic and Cerner.
Peer Medical doesn’t really have competitors in the traditional sense, other than Facebook support groups for patients, which are not anonymous and chaotic, and Google searches. PatientsLikeMe, founded in the early 2000s, doesn’t leverage the medical records aspect and sold in 2019 to United Health Care for 2017 after raising $100 million.
Commenting, Reshma Sohoni, co-founder of Seedcamp said: “Ed was a part of Seedcamp’s first cohort of companies and returned our first successful exit. We’re thrilled to back Ed and his team for a second time and bring what we hope will be another successful venture to our portfolio. Unfortunately, I’ve also lost a parent to cancer and can relate to how important a tool like this can be to navigate such difficult times. We really like that the patient retains anonymity but is still able to learn from others.”
Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Seedcamp managing partner added: “At Seedcamp, this is exactly the type of community that we like to invest in. People, in this case, patients and caregivers, bound together by a common goal to fight cancer. We’re thrilled to help Ed and the Peer Medical team build this community that pools verified and anonymized medical records and uses them to optimize individual treatment paths.”
RentMineOnline, which did referrals for apartments on Facebook, was successfully sold to a publicly traded property management software firm, Real Page (NASDAQ: RP).