Clara: Connecting Patients with Life-Changing Research

Clara Health, founded out of MIT and Brown, is a platform connecting researchers with eligible participants for clinical studies.

Researchers and institutions have historically struggled to recruit participants for their studies. We’ve all seen the flyers posted on subways, on bus stops, throughout college dorms. Recruiting a very specific type of person for a study or trial can sometimes take over a year.

Evan Ehrenberg, a PhD student at MIT saw this problem first hand when conducting his own research for brain imaging. When his advisor asked students to recruit for their trials, most posted flyers in the hall, or sent information across email lists.

Evan Ehrenberg and Sol Chen, Founders of Clara

A few miles away at Brown University, undergrad Sol Chen was struggling with a similar recruiting problem.

The two met working in a research lab back when Sol was in high school. Sol began working with him on research for his thesis on the side, focusing on the computer vision model Evan was developing.

Forming a tight bond, the two stayed in touch and continued collaborating. When Sol and Evan began discussing the recruiting issue they were seeing across both of their campuses, they wondered why an Airbnb or Uber for this didn’t exist. While there were platforms such as Clinicaltrials.gov, they weren’t helpful for filtering down exactly what participants were looking for. As a part of the Brown Venture Fellowship, Sol began working with Joshua Cohen and Justin Klee, who are now mentors advising the Clara team based on on his experiences at Amylyx, a pharmaceutical company developing a treatment for ALS.

Over 80% of clinical trials fall behind and 20% fail due to recruitment, resulting in an $8.6 billion dollar loss for the U.S. Clinical Trial Industry. At the same time, the majority of patients are unaware of clinical trial opportunities, but more than half would participate if they knew about them, their research shows.

Clara connects participants with clinical and behavioral research trials. Here’s how it works:

1 — Researchers build out their study on their web app

2 — Individuals in the database are notified about studies that meet their profile and preferences

3 —Users who qualify for the study based on pre-screening surveys can apply.

4 — Researchers contact and schedule participants through the platform.

5 — Follow up data is collected and compliance reminders are sent through the app, accessible to researchers online.

After building out their early Beta platform, the team focused on gathering data from both researchers and patients, forming early partnerships with patient advocacy groups, while also building out their Patient Advisory Board to advise on communicating and understanding patient needs.

Going forward, the team plans to build out their software development team, work on building digital content for users around finding treatment centers, and create content and tools based on their patient advisory board’s recommendations. They plan to have a small MVP to release at the end of January, and a more finalized product launched towards the end of the first quarter of 2017. As Evan finishes up his final year at MIT, the two plan to pursue the company full time.

At Rough Draft Ventures, we’re excited to support Evan and Sol as they continue building out Clara through graduation and beyond. To learn more, visit Clarahealth.com. Stay tuned for updates!


If you’re a student looking to take your startup, company or project to the next-level, drop us a line & let’s explore what we can build together.