Palantir will soon help the FDA evaluate drugs, including COVID-19 treatments

Palantir’s push into federal health work continues. The data analytics company just picked up a new U.S. Food and Drug Administration contract which will span three years for a total of $44.4 million. The company’s shares, which have doubled in value over the last two months, are up around 20% on the news.

As Bloomberg reports, Palantir will help the FDA review drugs, including those developed for COVID-19 treatment, and assess the safety of other FDA-regulated health products like hand sanitizer. The contract will also bring Palantir’s data analysis software to the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research and the Oncology Center of Excellence, according to Bloomberg.

In late September, after much back and forth with the SEC over its S-1, Palantir went public through a direct listing rather than a traditional IPO. The secretive company, co-founded by Silicon Valley iconoclast Peter Thiel, has attracted unwanted attention in recent years for its ongoing work with ICE, the federal law enforcement agency that carries out deportations.

The FDA sits within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which has already tapped Palantir for work on the coronavirus crisis. In April, Palantir secured two contracts with HHS for its software, which the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force used to track trends and make decisions about the pandemic. Palantir also worked with the CDC to model the spread of the virus as early as mid-March.

Although it isn’t clear if the Biden administration will continue to expand federal work with Palantir, the process of distributing vaccines provides another logistical opportunity for the controversial company. Tracking which individuals have received both doses of a vaccine is work that sounds very much in Palantir’s wheelhouse.

Palantir relies heavily on federal contracts in the U.S., but it also shops its software platforms to governments abroad. In November, the U.K. was considering its software to aid contact-tracing efforts, though with vaccines already in distribution there it’s not clear that those talks have continued.

The company’s S-1 filing revealed that Palantir only has 125 clients, with a little over half of its revenue coming from government contracts. While the focus tends to be on Palantir’s relationships in the U.S., 60% of its business is international, though many of its clients remain unknown both at home and abroad.