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April 05, 2017 | Tom Ballard focused on bringing logistics efficiency to CROs

Slope.ioBy Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

“I absolutely love data,” Rust Felix, Chief Executive Officer of Inc., tells us in a recent interview. “I’ve always been a numbers guy.”

Today, the current resident of Mobile, AL and graduate of last year’s inaugural Dynamo accelerator, is moving the headquarters for the logistics start-up to Chattanooga. The Co-Founders of the company are Rust and his brother Michael.

“I develop the mathematical models,” Rust Felix says, adding that his brother, a former Professor of Industrial Design at SCAD and’s Chief Technology Officer, is focused on the design and user interface aspects of their product.

So, what is it that does? The idea came from the Co-Founders collective expertise and a real market need identified by Rust’s wife.

“She works as Chief Administrative Officer for a Contract Research Organization (CRO),” he explained. For readers not familiar with the term, think of clinical trials for new drugs and medical devices. CROs provide support to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industries in the form of research services outsourced on a contract basis.

Maintaining the right clinical supplies for each trial and each participant can provide significant logistics issues and a sizable inventory.

“We have a lot of very expensive supplies, and we don’t know who will need things and when,” Felix said is describing the problem his wife identified. “This results in an overwhelming amount of waste” if certain supplies are not used before expiration dates or too many supplies are sent to the clinical research sites.

For the Felix brothers, this was a perfect problem to which they could apply their complementary skills and more recent experience with APHID Industries LLC, a data-driven start-up founded in 2011 to manage logistics and sales for online e-Commerce platforms.

“We built a massive algorithm that could predict popularity of products, when to buy and sell, and likely profit,” Felix explained. “It took a couple of years to get the math right, but it was fun, and we were making good money.”

So, when Rust’s wife identified another sector – clinical trials – with real needs in the predictive analytics space, the brothers jumped at the opportunity.

“We already had a beautiful, comprehensive logistics software package and a small, nimble team,” he said.

In just two months, rebuilt the software platform with clinical trial logistics in mind, developing a scalable, reliable, just-in-time supply chain model that mapped real-time clinical trial data to each patient’s unique supply needs.

“The really big thing we do is make clinical research trials more efficient by using software to replace what people used to do,” Felix says, adding that has coordination services to dispatch supplies and investigational medicine from others but also distributes its own supply kits.

“Every clinical research study site has unique needs,” Felix said. “Mayo (Clinic) and M.D. Anderson are very different.”

Launched about a year ago, is managing five (soon to be six) complex oncology immunotherapy trials, serving hundreds of patients at study sites across the United States.

That’s an impressive statistic considering the team numbers four people. “We’ve been able to do the work of a team four or five times our size,” he adds. just completed an over-subscribed $900,000 seed funding round that should propel continued growth for two years.

“We’re looking ahead at other ways to use data to make clinical trials more efficient, but are laser-focused right now on this sector,” Felix says.

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